The Graces

The Graces

After months of hints and teasers, I’m proud to be able to bring you a review of The Graces by Laure Eve. Many thanks to Faber & Faber for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel! The Graces the first part of a planned duology and is due to be released in September. It is a paranormal thriller about a teenage girl who grows obsessed with a family who may be witches. As I’m reviewing this novel based on an unedited proof, please bear in mind that some small details may change prior to publication.

All the locals spoke about the Graces with a mixture of fear and awe. Everyone knew that they were witches. They were beautiful, successful and sinister events always followed the birthday of their eldest children. In school, the Grace siblings were treated like celebrities. Everyone was desperate to get into Thalia, Fenrin and Summer’s inner circle as doing so assured instant popularity. To be shunned by the Graces was a fate worse than death.

Like everyone else, River is obsessed with the Graces. She longs to be noticed by Fenrin, the golden boy who seemed to have a different girl on his arm every week. Yet it is Summer, the youngest Grace, that finally notices her. The two quickly became friends, bonded over their shared weirdness and fascination with magic. Yet the closer they grow, the more River begins to realise just how strange the Graces are.

Hidden behind the glamour and strange family rituals, River starts to see that the Graces are not what they seem. Their freedom is just an illusion and they are bound by something may not be easily broken. Yet Summer believes that, as an outsider, she may just be the one who can free them. Yet in her eagerness to please, she overlooks the danger. Everyone has secrets and some of them might be deadly…

The Graces is a really difficult book for me to review. Not because it was a bad novel (far, far from it) but more because I don’t think that it will appeal to everyone. Just glancing at Goodreads, I can see that the advanced reviews are already rather mixed. However, this is my blog and I always review based on my own personal feelings towards a story. And I loved every minute of it.

I really can’t talk much about the plot without spoiling the sheer pleasure of reading it. The story is dark and intense, reeking of obsession, hidden truths and (potentially) magic. At its heart, it is more a mystery story than one about the paranormal. All hints of magic within the story are intentionally downplayed in order to leave the reader continually wondering if they are there at all. While bad things do frequently occur, they always take the form of accidents which leaves the reader uncertain whether the Graces are actually witches or if people just see what they want to see. It’s the pull between the supernatural and the mundane that really keeps the story moving.

I’m obviously not going to give you the answer here. The thrill of this novel comes from the fact that you can never be sure. Rumours follow the Graces like flies but interpreting the events largely falls in the lap of the reader. Will you believe in magic without question like River does, or take the sceptical approach of Fenrin who believes that the talk of curses is just a tactic employed by their mother to keep them in line? Eve does really well to keep the twist hidden – by the final chapters I was still unsure as to which way the story would ultimately lean.

While the sense of uncertainty did draw me in and held my attention, it wasn’t the thing that made this story unforgettable. What I loved the most was how The Graces perfectly encapsulated those fringe years between childhood and maturity. We all know (or possibly were) someone like River – one of those people who cling to childish fantasies because believing in magic is far more appealing than having to face reality. This is something I can fully appreciate. The world can be harsh and unfair. In the novel, Marcus is a great example of this. When he first appears in the story, he is portrayed as being some kind of deranged loner who relentlessly stalks Thalia. However, as River comes to learn more about the Graces she instead starts to believe that he’s the victim of a terrible curse that’s warped his love into something destructive and dangerous. At the end of the day, which seems more comforting? If you believe in the existence of some kind of corruptive external force, Marcus becomes a victim rather than a villain.

As the story is told in first person from River’s perspective, we always see the Graces through her eyes and feel her obsession, desperation and betrayal. While River generally views them as being magical, at varying points her beliefs are shaken and the reader gets glimpses of them from the other side, making logical sense of their strange behaviour. Yet small hints in the narrative also occasionally reveal that River may not be telling the reader whole truths about her past either. The final twist of the novel brought all secrets to light and left me wanting to read the book again to hunt for the hints that I might have missed first time around.

The characters are all superbly fleshed out, never really conforming to archetypes but instead speaking and acting like real people. All of them were prone to impulsive behaviour and unpredictable shifts in mood, just like real teenagers. I found that River was the character that I could relate too most freely, though this was in part due to my own memories of being a teenager – awkward and longing to be anything other than ordinary.

The Graces were entirely different. At the beginning of the novel they seemed almost like fantastical creatures themselves, as out of place in high school as the vampires were in Twilight. However, this glamour soon began to drop away as the more mundane aspects of their lifestyle are revealed to River. I won’t say any more about this for fear of spoiling the story but let’s just say that in The Graces no one is as they first seem.

All in all, I would personally recommend this novel to any older teen who likes dark and mysterious tales. Its fantasy overtones are very light but serve to give this story an unforgettable atmosphere that left me hungry for more. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of Eve’s work in the future.

The Graces is due for release on 1st September and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

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  1. Trackback: The Sobeks 2016 – Part 2 | Arkham Reviews

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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