by Tracy Banghart
Published on July 31, 2018 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.
Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.
Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.
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Grace and Fury is one of those books that I thought I was going to absolutely love from start to finish but didn’t quite hit that mark. It was good, don’t get me wrong. I flew through it in record time and will definitely read the sequel (there IS going to be a sequel, right?).
Set in a world that’s what I imagined as cross between The Selection and The Handmaid’s Tale, sisters Nomi and Serina are stuck in a world where women have zero power or rights. Their purpose in the world is to be pretty and have kids. For the first couple chapters, I was prepared to put the book aside because it felt like the pattern of the pretty girl going to the [palace] to be a [princess].
Then WHAM, it got good.
Banghart crafts a rich story of defiance and female empowerment as she alternates between Nomi, the girl who hates the system and ends up forced into the heart of it, and Serina, the girl who made her peace with the world but learns that life could be different. Of the two, Nomi was my favorite. Serina didn’t make the list after she spent half the book agreeing that women should be submissive and obedient. I know that’s her character, how she’s raised in this world, but I struggled to get behind that mindset and didn’t warm to her until later on in the book.
That said, this book excelled at opposing viewpoints with these characters. Serina showed a strength behind her demure state and a loyalty to family that went above and beyond. Nomi represented the rebellious girl I’m used to seeing in dystopian novels but forcing her to see the women on the other side of the curtain gave her a different drive to change things.
As for the secondary characters and the antagonist, I liked them, but I didn’t love them. The big twist near the end with the antagonist didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. Either the author set it up perfectly so it wasn’t a shock, or I guessed it early. Honestly, I’m not sure. And maybe that was the intent but I really didn’t like any of the male characters. The Heir (think prince equivalent) and his younger brother are in Nomi’s world so you only see them for half the story and I didn’t love or hate them until closer to the end. In Serina’s world of fighting women, a sport for the male guards’ pleasure, it’s women vs. men and that’s the defined dynamic. I just. . . I knew the stakes were high for both sisters but they never really registered with me.
And then. The cliffhanger. Because WOW, talk about ending with a bang. I thought this was a standalone but it better not be because you can’t just end the story like that and not give the readers another book. The last few chapters were a bit of a blur and regardless of how I felt at the start of the book, I was hooked by the end.
For all of y’all looking for a YA fantasy that’s not your typical princess-esque tale (which I love, but nice to change things up), read Grace and Fury. And then sit and wait impatiently for a sequel!