Grace and Fury is one of those books I put on my TBR simply because of the buzz. Since it didn’t catch my eye because of the author, or an interesting summary, my expectations were mild. I didn’t need, however, to be wary. This book is terrific!
Serina and Nomi move to the palace, Serina hoping to become a Grace, and Nomi to be her servant if Serina becomes one. A twist in fate leads to the opposite. Nomi becomes a Grace, and Serina is sent to prison for the crime of reading, though Nomi is the one who actually knows how to read. Though in different circumstances, it becomes a fight for life for both of them.
Two words are thrown around in just about every brief description of this book: “feminist fantasy.” That description works surprisingly well. Tessaro is about as regressive for women as you can imagine. Reading is a crime worthy of the worst prison in existance, and just about the only option of “advancement” for a woman is offering themselves to the king (or soon-to-be king) as a Grace (wife).
This world has a lot of unique aspects. From the simplicity of Serina’s “crime,” to the quiet evolution of Nomi’s rebellion in the palace, this book gets credit for embracing nuance instead of flashy shock-and-awe moments. It has bits we’ve seen before, like literal fights to the death via hand on hand combat, but does it all in a quieter, unusual manner. Grace and Fury is a fantasy, but likely would have done well during the YA dystopian phase several years ago. It has the makings of a YA dystopia, but develops in a way most of the dystopian books of yesterday did not.
Serina and Nomi alternate narration in this book. They each encounter their own nightmare–Serina in a situation of brutality; Nomi in a situation of submission. In these opposing situations they unknowingly find a common ground. Despite being separate through most of the book, the sisters are inexplicably connected. Their stories feed off each other without having a moment of overlap.
Even the twists in the book are great. It has twists we’ve seen before, but unlike in other titles the twists in this book feel earned. My one complaint, though small, is directed at the ending. This book in many ways feels unfinished. It’s a part of a larger hole, and that is very obvious in the ending. Things don’t really end. It just seems to pause for a moment, leaving me waiting for a finished story that probably won’t come for another year or so.
Overall, however, this was a great…yes I’ll say it…feminist fantasy. You should read it if you haven’t already.