Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton
ARC received from the publisher for a fair review.
Publish date: September 18, 2018
No star review due to DNF at 60%
In Three Graces everyone is healthy and nothing bad happens because 200 years ago a witch made a bargain with the devil to send in the best boy, the saint, to run into his forest every seven years for it. Except there is a blight and sickness, and it’s only been 3 years since the last saint ran into the woods. Three friends battle with the fact that it’s 4 years too soon for the Slaughter Moon.
When I jumped into this book I was really hoping for some early fall creepy vibes. While there were some creepy undertones I never got to the point where I got goose bumps or the hair on the back of my neck rose. As I stopped at 60% out of sheer boredom, I cannot attest to how the story progresses beyond that.
I was interested in the story and finding out what happened in the woods, but it first takes so long to establish the characters that it isn’t till near 50% into the book that someone goes into the wood as the sacrifice (I’ll save you that spoiler). Unfortunately, the stretch that took me to even get to that point wasn’t entirely rewarded as we are only given just a small taste of what happened, and from what I could tell the story probably continues in the fashion of present and flash backs a few paragraphs at a time of what was experienced in the wood. While that adds to some mystery, it caused the story to feel disjointed and I quickly lost interest.
The World Building
Gratton did a very good job of bringing out this small hidden town. I had this pictured in my head to resemble M Night Shyamalan’s The Village as a setting. Everything from the old time-y feel, to a wood that was forbidden, to kids trying to stay by the edge or get as close as possible had strong visual influence for me. A large portion of the writing could actually be contributed to the setting. Eerie it certainly was, as the woods themselves (from what little description I was able to gleam from my % of reading) provided with some darker visualization that I could almost describe as grotesquely beautiful .
I really wanted to like the characters, and while we are given some diversity of POC & LGBTQIAP+ I just couldn’t grasp my mind around their personalities. They were definitely given a lot of depth from a girl who can love so openly and is drawn to the wood in a whimsical manner, to a boy who was originally raised as a girl only to almost be traumatized as he is realized to be a boy at a young age and then have to prove himself to be the manliest of boys, and a boy who is just the best boy and therefore is raised thinking he must be one of the saints to go.
Gratton uses the characters to challenge gender rolls, sexuality, and fluidity in a seamless manner that fit with the overall book. Through each character they each encounter a hurdle of what is expected of the boy or girl, and how they face it was fitting to their character status in the story.
Adna – Beautiful Hell