Back in June, while I was running from one film screening to another at the Edinburgh Film Festival, a package was waiting patiently for me to return to London. Unfortunately, my own patience was non-existent and as soon as I realised that the month’s FairyLoot box had arrived, I texted my reading buddies and asked what the month’s book was. There hadn’t been a single novel in the subscription box that I hadn’t fallen madly in love with and I was desperate to know what I was missing.
The answer: Grace and Furyby Tracy Banghart.
Standing outside Odeon at 8am, waiting for the press and industry members to arrive to their morning screening, I pulled up Safari on my iPhone and started Googling. “It’s like The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Bachelor,” one website wrote.
Wait, what? The Handmaid’s Tale– a book I had an intense love-hate relationship with – and The Bachelor – a show I simply had a hate-hate relationship with? I suddenly became disheartened. Perhaps FairyLoot didn’t always get their books right. Perhaps this would be the first book I wouldn’t enjoy.
Life took over and my schedule became even more chaotic. All thoughts of Grace and Fury, of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Bachelor fell way. Even upon returning to London, there was too much going to care. There was work to catch up on, friends to catch up with and a routine to settle back into. When my schedule finally opened up and I had time to sit down with a book, I found three unread FairyLoot picks on my bedside table. A fourth would be on its way before the month was up. I needed to catch up! I chose the shortest of the three, at just over three hundred pages, and decided to read my way up to the longest of the pile, at just under six hundred pages.
It took six hours spread over two days to devour the entire book.
Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart.
Yes, it was reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, and yes, there was an element of The Bachelor in its narrative, but it was so much more! It was a story of sacrifice. Of sisterhood, family and love. Of challenging what society considers the norm. Of changing what you consider the fundamental parts of who you in order to become something completely different. Of believing in yourself.
It was a reminder that one grain of sand can tip the scale.
In a world where women have no rights whatsoever, two sisters are trying to find their way. The eldest, Serina, has been training her entire life to become a ‘Grace’ (a glorified courtesan), considered to be an example of the perfect woman whose only reason for living is to fulfil all the needs of the heir, to look pretty on his arm and to provide him an heir of his own. Her younger sister, Nomi, was meant to be her handmaiden, but when Nomi accidentally slips up and shows her true, rebellious nature to the heir and his brother, the sisters find their lives turned upside down. One sister becomes a prisoner in the Palace whilst the other is taken to an island where women are forced to fight to survive. In an attempt to return to each other, both sisters must break out of their constraints, their prisons and what they consider their true natures whilst navigating a world men well and truly rule.
Banghart has this beautiful ability to get straight down to the point. Her writing style was simple, her character names are not the kind you needed to Google in order to learn how to pronounce, her chapters were short. Even her narrative and it’s structure was fairly simple. Whilst some may think that her simplicity was her weakness, I thought it was her greatest strength. It kept it firmly within its pages until I had no choice but to put it down and go to bed, and the following morning it kept drawing my eye towards it, desperate to find out what’s next.
The characters have a lot of potential which I love. As the first book in a series, they end in the place you expect them to – developing slowly and surely, but with the promise of great things in the next book. The twists and turns are, at times, predictable, but they’re never less than exciting when you read them regardless.
And that cliffhanger!
If you’re not the kind of person that can wait a year before you find out which characters are dead and which are alive, then don’t pick this book up until 2019. But, if you’re anything like me, and you revel in coming up with theories about what could possibly happen next, this is definitely one you need to get your hands on. And if you’re into writing fan-fiction (something I didn’t realise actually happened still until Fangirlcame out) this is DEFINITELY one for you!
All in all, definitely one not to judge before you’ve read it. Reviews are, without a doubt, misleading when it comes to this one! Get yourself a copy, settle in with a cup of coffee, and enjoy!