Book Title: Grace and Fury
Author: Tracy Banghart
Series: Untitled #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy Fiction
Pub Date: 07/31/18
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.
For every woman who has been told to sit down and be quiet… And who stood up anyway.
It felt highly fitting to use the author’s initial dedication to highlight the overall theme of Grace and Fury rather than a quote from the ARC, because GIRL POWER DUH. Seriously, this is feminist, Italian-inspired fantasy full of court intrigue, the bonds of family (both blood and chosen), and fighting for what is right and good in this world. We’ve encountered SO many YA fantasies featured in made up worlds recently that it felt nice to come across something a little more realistic and grounded. Yes, it’s still fantasy, but it had a strong historical component to it, while also bringing in themes that people still experience worldwide in other countries, like women not being allowed to really do anything except for reproduce.
Here, we have two sisters, Nomi and Serina who couldn’t be more different at first glance. Serina has been groomed her entire life to become a Grace, a glorified concubine for the heir to the throne. Nomi has trained to become her handmaiden, but her heart isn’t in it. She has secretly been educating herself, with the help of her brother, and feels a life at the palace will be a slow, painful death. Once the girls arrive at the palace, something happens and it is Nomi who is chosen as a Grace, while Serina stays on as her handmaiden. Tension rises and another thing happens, which causes the banishment of Serina to this volcanic island where it’s survival of the fittest. Will Nomi be able to work her advantage in the palace to rescue her sister? Will Serina be able to survive and escape to protect Nomi? Duhn duhn DUUUUUUUHHHHHN.
Guys, I loved this story. It’s a little slow in the first few chapters, because there’s a lot of set up to make this story happen, but stick with it; I promise it’s well worth your time. You’ll think you’ve read this story before, but once you get to the second “thing” happening, the plot takes a turn into unique territory and I couldn’t flip the pages quickly enough. I have the paper cuts to prove it. Going into this, I didn’t realize it was the first in a new series, but once I turned the final page I scoured other reviews to make sure there would be more. Because holy guacamole, was that a cliffhanger! The final 20% or so of the book I had to hold on to my britches because it was twist after twist after twist. Lots of gasping and “Oh no he didn’t!” going on here.
While the plot was fantastic and the setting was delectable, I found that the characterization is what really made this debut stand out among a sea of fantasy wannabes. You think you know the sisters and their stereotypical casting in the beginning, but after a few instances shift them out of their comfort zone, we see immediate growth that carries throughout the book. Nomi is the one who has always been expected to be strong, and Serina is the delicate flower, but after their circumstances are exchanged and each girl is thrust out of their comfort zone, we see Nomi navigating a precarious line of political intrigue and learning to solve her problems beyond being brash, yet calculating. Serina has to learn very quickly how to physically toughen up and hold her own after being raised a demure lady. These transformations are phenomenal and I can’t wait for you to read about them for yourself.
I’m going to stop here, as to not spoil anything for future readers, but this is a fantasy that is timely, relevant, and necessary for the world we live in. As scary as it sounds, this “fantasy” isn’t too far removed from some females’ reality, and it’s a healthy wake up call for young men and women alike to take hold of their future, not only for themselves, but for their legacy they choose to leave behind as well. Highly recommended for those looking for a feminist infused tale that will hold your attention, and your heart, captive until the final page is turned.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.