By the blessings of NetGalley, I landed several approvals in a row for a bunch of great young adult books. Among them was The Graces by Laure Eve. After losing my mind for a solid five minutes, I jumped in. Let me tell you: zero regrets on that front. It gets increasingly difficult with a full time job and a full time writing schedule to pull off a six-hour reading binge to finish a book, but when the book is worth it, I will absolutely shirk most of my responsibilities to do it. The Graces was one such example of “screw everything I’m going to read for six hours and maybe eat a snack in the middle and possible take a bathroom break without actually putting the book down.”
TMI? Sorry not sorry.
We’re touching on themes of obsession, idolatry, high school social strata, belonging, and unearthing a pile of secrets from beneath rocks that probably shouldn’t be overturned. The Graces teeters on becoming The Virgin Suicides to misdirect the reader, and there’s a lot of that: The Grace family is supernatural in its beauty. They’re prestigious, wealthy, gorgeous, magnetic, and very insular — they don’t mix well with other folk, and they certainly don’t marry out of their circle. It makes for difficult relationships that sometimes end in obsession, murder, or suicide. What happens when you can’t have the thing you want the most? Well… usually nothing good. Usually, people try to find explanations for the things that seem just out of their reach of comprehension as a result, and the answer to the Grace family’s power? Well, they’re witches, obviously — but that’s a matter of perception of anyone outside the family, rather than fact.
I am eternally thankful that “magic” in this book owes it’s influence to contemporary Pagan mysticism with a heavy dollop of Wicca. There’s enough hype that surrounds neo-pagan spirituality that a town that asks itself the question, “Is magic real?” will continue to do so because of a family’s unorthodox practices. It leaves the reader wondering if they’ve got actual power or not, which urges you to turn the page, and becomes worrisome when you don’t see the results of their efforts. This particular dialogue kept me grounded (and worrying for my more eclectic — Pagan — friends when they get their hands on this thing.)
I kept expecting Laure Eve to take liberties with the normalizing elements that situate the book in reality, and turn them into something spectacular, and I’m so so glad she didn’t. It made the book that much more believable that there weren’t outlandish spells being bandied about with astonishing consequences.
The book isn’t fantasy, but it is fantastic in that you’re almost convinced there’s no such thing as magic until something truly bonkers and otherworldly happens.
As a result I’m not a hundred percent sure how to classify it: magical reality is maybe the closest, as dark fantasy would be a bit of a reach.
I found the characterization of the narrator — River — to be particularly great: she’s got problems both practically and psychologically, and from what I’ve gauged from other reviews, there’s a lot of dislike towards her. She’s the perfect imperfect character in my book, and as things unfold, you get the sense that she’s ultra unstable but never bemoans it. Is that the mark of insanity? That you don’t talk about how bonkers you actually are?
River constantly wants to be something she’s not, and it makes for a rewarding finish to her arc when she comes to accept that she’s bigger, badder, and stronger than the thing she craves.
An excellent, tight narrative that drops enough hints to drive the reader onwards while being suitably ominous. I read The Graces by Laure Eve with voracious abandon, and I’m enthusiastically hoping we see a sequel sometime soon.
The Graces by Laure EveThe Graces by Laure Eve
Published by Faber & Faber on September 1st 2016
Genres: Magical Reality
Check it out: Goodreads
Everyone said the Graces were witches.
They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.
They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.
All I had to do was show them that person was me.
Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?
This beautifully-written thriller will grip you from its very first page.Buy on Amazon