October 11, 2015

Review: The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers
Author: Kirsty Logan
Genre: Fantasy/Dystopia
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Crown


A lyrical and moving debut in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, introducing an original and commanding new voice in fiction

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, sending the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland ("landlockers") and those who float on the sea ("damplings"), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives--offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

The Gracekeepers is a beautiful and enchanting novel that will stay with the reader long after they've finished reading it. The novel follows two young women from completely different worlds: Callanish, who lives permanently on land and is a gracekeeper - a person who performs burials at sea; and North, a performer for a circus that sails from island to island, but lives on the sea. These two women are incredibly different from one another on several levels - especially in their world, where the majority of the surface is water with scatterings of islands. The people who live on land - "landlockers" - don't like the people who live on the sea - "damplings" - and vice versa. That's one of the big distinctions between the two girls and probably the most important to the people of their world. When Callanish and North happen to meet due to a storm, they easily see past their differences to the more important parts of themselves - which are incredibly alike. They are both lonely in their lives, and wish for something other than their present lives. After meeting one another, they form a deep friendship that brings hope and light back into each of their lives - something that neither one thought possible.

This was an incredibly well crafted novel that had me hooked from the beginning of the prologue. The story is divided up between Callanish's and North's lives, but is told from the third person point of view. I'm a huge believer in the power of perspective, and normally I always say that the first person POV is the best way to go. However, the third person narration worked well in this novel for a few reasons. It allows the reader to get to know both main characters on a personal level by splitting up the book into separate sections for each character. Also, even though first person allows the reader an incredibly deep connection with the narrator - using it with this writing style could've ended up being confusing for the reader, and all of the wonderful elements of the book would have been lost. I think that the author did a great job with selecting the third person perspective - it's one of a select few titles that I've said that about.

The world that Callanish and North live in is fascinating and I enjoyed learning all about it - the two different types of people and how their lives were spent; the similarities and differences between them; as well as the specific roles of the circus performers and gracekeepers. The entire story was written with vivid descriptions and detailed imagery, to the point where I could easily imagine it all in my mind with hardly any effort. The author made the world come alive with the complex characters, the setting, and - more than anything - the story itself. I found the story to be beautifully told - as I said earlier, I found myself deep inside the author's world within the first paragraph of the prologue. Once I slipped inside that place, I didn't come back to reality until I had finished the book - which flew by in a matter of hours. There's a cadence to the writing that I can't put my finger on - but I immediately felt it when I started reading. The messages in the story were ones of hope, love, and acceptance; although it talk of death, grief, forgiveness, and several other deep topics. Everything about the book came together so effortlessly and mesmerizing that I couldn't believe it when I read that this was the author's debut novel. I never would have guessed that in a million years. The fact that this author's debut novel was so magnificent in almost every way without seeming to try at all is a real testament to the author's raw talent. I can't recommend this book highly enough. I really think everyone should give this one a chance - even if it isn't your normal genre. There's such an original voice to the story that it can't be put into a single genre - it breaks down those barriers as it weaves a mesmerizing tale around you. This is definitely a new favorite of mine and one I know I'll be re-reading several times - as far as the author goes, with this being her debut novel - I'll be eagerly waiting for her next release.

* I received a copy of the book for review from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. *


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