Title: Strange Grace
Author: Tessa Gratton
Pub. Date: September 18th. 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Content Warnings: Human sacrifice, Death, Trauma, and Torture…There’s probably a whole lot more that I’m missing since this in fact is THE darkest read I’ve ever read, please note trigger warnings for graphic imagery.
*Thank you Simon & Schuster for the ARC copy in exchange for an honest review
“Every seven years their best boy is sent into the forest from sundown to sunrise, on the night of the Slaughter Moon. he will live or die on his own mettle, and for his sacrifice the devil blesses Three Graces”
In Three Graces the people live without death, disease, or injuries in exchange for their best boy. The most purest of heart & loved by all the people is raised to be sacrificed as a “Saint” every seven years to the Devil who lives in the forest, a bargain that started when a Grace witch fell in love with the Devil. When the Slaughter moon comes early at the 3 year mark, all are left wondering what went wrong with the last sacrifice. For three of the youths living in Three Graces, it’s an opportunity to give their lives some purpose…
Mairwen- A Grace Witch who has always been pulled in by the dark magic that lives in the forest. The Daughter of a Grace Witch & a Saint, Mairwen dreams of the day she can do more than just brush the borders of the Forest. Mairwen is definitely what I’d consider a daughter of the night, she collects bones and makes trinkets out of them. Mairwen does NOT fear the Devil. Fearless & strong, Mairwen also loves Rhun & Arthur who each face their own challenges.
Rhun- Our towns chosen Saint, loved by all and descended from a long line of Saints sacrificed to the Devil & the forest. Rhun is fully prepared to die for the people of Three Graces who believe him to be the best boy. However, Rhun also knows that his love for Arthur if discovered will most likely take him out of the running for “Saint.” Still, Rhun doesn’t hold back his love for either Mairwen or Arthur. What I love about Rhun is that he respects Arthur’s boundaries & understands that Arthur isn’t ready to acknowledge there are feelings there to begin with.
Arthur- The Outcast of Three Graces as a result of his mothers decision to raise him as a girl. Arthur’s mother believed she could protect him from ever having to be considered for sacrifice by keeping his gender a secret. This however backfires when at a young age he is exposed in front of others and made to question his own identity. My heart bleeds for Arthur who I just want to protect at all costs! Arthur’s also the only one who sees how messed up Three graces really is and how toxic masculinity runs deep in its core. Arthur waivers between needing to prove something to this town and basically saying SCREW YOU! Arthur is not one to self sacrifice for this town however he loves both Mairwen & Rhun most and for them anything goes.
Strange Grace lured me in with its beautifully mysterious cover with a tree and red leaves never once thinking it would wrap its roots around my every waking thought. I LIVE for dark atmospheric reads but Tessa Gratton seriously elevated the bar on what I consider Dark Fantasy going forward. I LOVED every minute of my reading experience with this book & the imagery I was left with alone makes this a stand-out read. Gratton gives us a Polyamorous relationship and a mostly all queer cast of characters. Gender fluidity is discussed from the POV of one of the main characters who was made to live as female at an age when they didn’t know the difference. This character grows up to be someone who wants so badly for there to be no hard lines of distinction between what makes one male or female. This is the first book I’ve ever come across in YA Fantasy to weave in so many important discussions on gender & sexuality and I cannot sing its praises enough! The writing might haunt you & break you but I guarantee it will leave its mark on you 🖤
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