Serina Tessaro 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. It’s her chance to secure a better life for her family, and to keep her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, out of trouble. But when Nomi catches the Heir’s eye instead, Serina is the one who takes the fall for the dangerous secret her sister has been hiding.
Trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one option: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to save Serina. But this is easier said than done…. A traitor walks the halls of the palazzo, and deception lurks in every corner.
Meanwhile, Serina is running out of time. Imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive, surrounded by women stronger than she is, one wrong move could cost her everything. There is no room for weakness on Mount Ruin, especially weaknesses of the heart.
Thrilling and captivating, Grace and Fury is a story of fierce sisterhood, and of survival in a world that’s determined to break you.
Read: April 2019
Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
Without a doubt, Grace and Fury is feminist. Not only does it focus on sexism perpetrated by men against women, but it also, through the training and lives of Graces, explicitly spotlights the intra-gender competition that exists between women.
But being “feminist” doesn’t automatically net a rave review for a book. While Banghart’s point is exceedingly perspicuous, her execution is pretty humdrum.
The writing style leaves something to be desired. Banghart spends way too much time discussing sartorial choices. Such a decision might have been made to underscore the role that vanity plays in this society. Unfortunately, describing characters’ apparel at points where doing so adds nothing to the story is more disruptive than effective when it comes to driving such a point home. A thesaurus might also have been helpful, since the word “fury” appears about a million times. Banghart’s repetition of the word “fury” lends the impression that she’s trying too hard to explain her title when no explanation is really needed.
This story just doesn’t stand out creatively. The general plotline of “women are oppressed/get sexist bullshit and decide to fight back” can be a very compelling one, but Banghart fails to explore a truly unique iteration of that. Viridia does not distinguish itself as a noteworthy setting. Basically it’s just a super sexist version of Italy, I guess. Furthermore, its history is purposely hazy, but this hinders rather than assists the revelation of the true past, which is anticlimactically presented in the form of an infodump. With little known about Viridia aside from its enforcement of rigid gender roles, the divulgence of the country’s revised history just doesn’t pack the punch that it ought to.
The prosaic characterization drains life out of the story. Nomi is painfully gullible, Asa is an obsequious scum weasel, and Malachi is only slightly livelier than a yardstick. Though I appreciated Val, Renzo, and Maris, their characters are not fully explored (perhaps because Banghart is saving that for the sequel to Grace and Fury). Nomi’s character arc stands in stark juxtaposition next to Serina’s much sturdier one – a weakness that drags down the story, since half of the book is about Nomi’s experiences.
As is often true, flat characters make for dull romances. Val and Serina are a cute couple, but their affair isn’t exactly the most gripping I’ve ever read. Nomi’s romances, on the other hand, are just tedious. Long before Banghart revealed Asa’s perfidy I disliked him because he’s so patently untrustworthy, and although Malachi is more pleasant company, he’s insufferably stodgy. Even though I’m almost positive that Nomi will end up with Malachi, I don’t care much beyond being bored with Malachi and Nomi, whether they’re alone or together.
Overall, this book was shallowly entertaining. I liked Serina’s character and am curious enough about Ines’s position that I’ll probably read the sequel, but I’m not exactly on the edge of my chair in anticipation or ready to fork over money to read it immediately upon its release. Hopefully Banghart will seize upon the vast room for improvement and the next book will be more than just mediocre.
Cover image is from BarnesandNoble.com.