Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm not sure whether to call this fantasy or dystopian. Either way, I call it pretty darn good! I used to say that the Selection series by Kierra Cass was a cross between The Bachelor and The Hunger Games, although it wasn't as violent. This book, Grace and Fury, is truly like a cross between the Selection and The Hunger Games. There is royalty, finding a match for the heir, a big palace and lavish lifestyle for the chosen girls, and then, there is Mount Ruin, a prison of sorts, where women are sent as punishment for all manner of crimes including learning to read.
In the kingdom of Veridia, Serina has trained all of her life to be a Grace-demure, submissive, beautiful, dainty, and trained in dance, the harp, and confidence. Her sister Nomi is the opposite. She is rebellious, defiant, has learned to read even though it is against the law, and is trained to cook and clean. Both girls will go off to the castle, Serina as Grace, vying for the attention of the heir, and Nomi as her handmaiden. This will be a better life than what they have in Lanos. Nomi's twin brother Renzo will stay home, continue his studies, find a career, choose a wife, and so on. Their parents will continue to toil in sweatshops making clothing.
In a twist, Nomi is selected as Grace instead of Serina, then... horror of horrors, she is caught with a book, the book Nomi stole, and she is sent to the deadly Mount Ruin to prison. The girls are separated. Serina is going to a place of terror. Nomi is forced to become a Grace, a life she did not choose and never envied. She has to win favor with the heir, or maybe his brother, to have any chance of seeing Serina again. And she pulls her twin brother into the plot.
One thing I like about this book is its message about the empowerment of women and girls. Viridia is a place where females have no choices. They cannot attend school or learn to read. They cannot choose their own husband. They cannot choose their own job. They are subjugated in all things. The Graces are symbols of that life, one in which all decisions are made by the Superior, and later his heir. Serina and Nomi will eventually realize that it is not only unfair, but unacceptable to refuse to give women a voice or choice in their own lives.
One thing I didn't like about the book is there is NO RESOLUTION. The reader gets to the climax, and the book ends, forcing the reader to buy book two, which, of course, I did. It literally STOPPED at the climax which is annoying to no end. Even so, I liked this book. Stay tuned in a week or two for part 2.
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