Monday, September 17, 2018

ARC Review: Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Title: Strange Grace
Written by: Tessa Gratton
Published: September, 2018 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all? Find out in this lush, atmospheric fantasy novel that entwines love, lies, and sacrifice. 

Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest. 

Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early. 

Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at ALA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I was so excited to read this book because it sounded totally up my alley. A book about a witch, a strangle town, a creepy forest, and complex characters. And yes, it had all those things and yet somehow I didn't enjoy this book as much as I was expecting at all.

One thing I do think this book did well is the setting. It crafted an interesting and atmospheric world that definitely had that modern fairy tale vibe to it. Like a lot of modern fairy tale stories it's the kind of book that feels almost timeless. It could be taking place today in a different world or a corner of our world even, or it could be set in Medieval times. I really enjoy that in my fantasy and I think this book did that very well. And the atmosphere. It was the perfect fall read with the creepy forest and the small town with a curse. The scenes in the woods were some of the very best in the book.

But that being said, this is another book which relied way too heavily on atmosphere. It wanted to make the world creepy and confusing which it did at the expense of the reader's understanding. There were so many moments where this book could have told us information it chose not to so it could wait until the end to reveal. As readers we shouldn't have to wait that long to find out that kind of information. And because it waited so long to build a certain atmosphere this was also at the expense of the plot and the pacing. This is a very slow read. It's not the kind of book that you want to devour in one sitting. It's the book that you have to sit with and take your time on. That's fine, but it kind of made me lose interest. I put it down for two days to read something else and then when I went back to it I should have finished it in a day and it took me three. If I am being completely honest, the only reason I did finish it is because I forced myself to because I had so little left. And I'm glad I did because those last 50 pages were great, they just came too little too late.

However, the thing about this book that you have to keep in mind is that it is a character-driven fantasy. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. I have loved some character-driven fantasies like The Raven Cycle which is one of my favorite series. Sometimes that can be a really good thing. But in the case of Strange Grace, it just didn't work for me. And it's not that I didn't like the characters or wasn't interested in their decisions moving the plot along, it just a really slow narrative and over time I kept losing focus and interest.

The characters, though, were really good. I felt interested in them and interested in their stories. Together they really cared about each other and their love and friendship was really the heart of this story. There was also a really good under current of them figuring out who they were and their place in the town. I think maybe the book could have played that aspect up a little more it would have made the character-driven narrative a little more enjoyable for me. And to be honest, I think it could have been more clear about the LGBT representation. There definitely was rep but you had to read between the lines to find it. The characters were great as a group however they could have been better as individuals.

All in all, I was a little disappointed by Strange Grace. It had a lot of promise and I was really excited to read it but it fell completely flat for me. The setting was atmospheric and interesting but took away from the overall plot of the story, and the characters were complex and likable but they could have been flushed out a little more. It was only okay in my opinion.

I give Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton 7 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Bypass. I hate to say it but I just don't think I would recommend this book. Maybe if you are a fan of modern fairy tales with a character-driven narrative and don't mind a slow pacing as long as there is an atmospheric world to fall into.

Have you read Strange Grace? What did you think? :Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

1 comment:

  1. Too bad you were disappointed! I think I'd like the setting too but I'd mostly likely be disappointed too from what I can tell. Still a great review though. Thanks for sharing!