Saturday, 18 August 2018

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Review: Grace & Fury by Tracy Banghart

Grace & Fury by Tracy BanghartNetGalleyGrace & Fury by Tracy Banghart (eProof) - Bold, brutal and beautiful, this is a must-read with the glitter and romance of The Selection and the thrilling action and intrigue of Red Queen.

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive.

Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace - selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman.

But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret, and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything.

Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?
From Goodreads.

I loved the sound of Grace & Fury by Tracy Banghart when I first heard about it - a world where women have no rights, with two sisters who have very different fates, one in a the palace, the other in a prison. It sounded so intriguing! I wasn't expecting it to be quite as good as it was, though!

In a world where women have no rights, where women don't get to choose their jobs, who they marry, and are forbidden from reading or standing up to men in any way, two sisters' lives are chosen for them. Serina has spent her whole life training to be a Grace - a wife to the Heir to the throne, to provide children, and be an example to the world of the perfect woman; submissive, docile, and eager to please. As a Grace, enough money would be sent home for her old, tired mother to give u[ work as a seamstress in a factory, and for her brother to be able to pay for a wife. Her younger sister, Nomi, however, is the complete opposite of Serina. Nomi has spirit and fire in her belly, and doesn't believe it's right that women have no choices. She's rebellious and rash, acting or speaking without thinking, and getting herself into trouble. Her rebelliousness has led to a secret - one that could ruin everything for herself, her sister, and her family. When Serina arrives at the palace to join the other prospective Graces, with Nomi in tow as her handmaid, Serina believes the perfect life of parties and glamour could be in her future, with a job secured for Nomi, too, where she wouldn't have to work herself to death, or be chained to a man she cannot choose. But when Nomi is unable to hold her tongue, behave well, and keep her secret under wraps, the two are separated - one a Grace, the other sent to an island prison where it's fully expected she will die...

Oh my god, I can't tell you just how much I loved this book! There's so much I want to say, but things get moving very quickly from the very start, and saying too much would spoil things. What I can say is that it's when the two get separated that each sister is really tested. Life at the palace isn't everything Serina thought it would be, and life on a island prison isn't what anyone would expect either. Women there are separated into crews, and each time new prisoners arrive, a woman from each crew is chosen to fight the others - to the death. The guards place bets, and rule with an iron fist. Life on the island reminded me very much of the life of a gladiator; days on end of training, leading to a fight to the death. While life at the palace is full of parties and glamour, it's also full of competition, scheming and plots, and the expectation that the Graces will do whatever the Heir desires - whether they want to or not.

The story is dual narrated by both Serina and Nomi, and I loved them both! Nomi has such a spark and fire to her, and she's so strong in her convictions, her beliefs that women should have and deserve more. That women should have choice in their lives, be allowed to read, and allowed to speak their mind. She's just brilliant, and it's wonderful to see a character like her in this world where women keep their faces down. It's such a terrible world that they live in, and it's so awesome to have a character who is against it from before the story even starts, rather than just accepting it, and waking up to the injustice as the story goes on. Which is what Serina does. She doesn't think there's anything to be done, so she's decided to make the best of the life she has, and go for the better of the few options available to her. Both girls grow throughout the novel; Nomi discovering a softer side to herself, and Serina realising how wrong their world is - how it's not acceptable, and shouldn't be accepted, and discovers some iron in her blood. Both girls fight in their own ways, and it's wonderful seeing them both trying to make change.

There's also such a strong theme of sisterhood throughout the novel - but not just between Serina and Nomi, although their relationship is beautiful! They are so different, and they are often on the opposite sides of an argument, but they genuinely care about each other, and the other is the driving force behind everything they do. But there are also so many other women in this novel, who are brilliant, caring women doing all they can to survive, but looking after their own at the same time. Women are forced to compete in so many ways, for so little, but there are times when they really stand together and fight for each other, and it's so beautiful to see!

I did find Serina's story a little more interesting that Nomi's, because I didn't know entirely how her story would turn out - I had an idea, but nothing concrete. With Nomi's story, however, I had my theories right from the off. However, while it turned out I was right, it was more gut instinct than anything that was overtly obvious, so I was never completely sure if I was right, though I did have very strong suspicions.

I also loved how it was written. As it's dual narrated, Serina and Nomi have alternate chapters, and almost every chapter ended on it's own mini cliff-hanger, so you'll be dying to read Nomi's next chapter when Serina's starts, but by the end of Serina's chapter, you're desperate to know what happens next for her, too. I really think it takes such skill to keep the tension flowing throughout a story like that, to have so many moments where you catch your breath at how a chapter ended for each an every chapter. It's just brilliant!

And the ending! Oh my god, I loved the ending! The two endings, for each sister! I can't say anything, but things are going to be very interesting in the sequel! I was vindicated in one respect, amazed and overwhelmed in another, and kind of hopeful with a side dish of apprehension overall. Such an incredible story, and a fantastic debut! Really can't wait for the next book in the series, and to be back with these two incredible sisters again!

Thank you to Hodder Children's Books via NetGalley for the eProof.

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Published: 26th July 2018
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Tracy Banghart's Website

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