Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thank you, Hachette Book Group, for giving me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
In Viridia, women were oppressed because men were afraid of them.
In my honest opinion, Grace and Fury is the love child of a literary threesome (ménage à trois, if you want to sound fancy): The Handmaid’s Tale, The Selection, and Red Queen. It seemed like the author selected tropes from each book and then tried to make them interesting—if not less disappointing—by integrating them into a story of sisterhood.
Serina is a demure and obedient girl who aims to be Viridia’s princess by winning the heart of the Heir. Nomi, on the other hand, is a natural rebel who always questions the validity of her misogynist society. During the selection process, Serina’s and Nomi’s lives take an unexpected turn. Nomi inadvertently catches the eye of the Heir (and his younger brother), and Serina is sent to a deadly prison island for a crime that she didn’t commit. Yearning to save each other from their respective cages, the twins fight battles both political and physical.
If I could disregard my jadedness, I would give Grace and Fury a higher rating. After all, it did inspire me with its feminist discourse. Women in this book were severely oppressed by men. They weren’t allowed to be literate, get an education, and choose a career. In other words, men were their belligerent gods on Earth. As someone who understands and respects the true value of femininity, I wanted Serina and Nomi to overcome subjugation and experience the pleasure of agency, aka the power of choice. The quote above is so true: some men hate women just because they feel threatened. In the end, misogyny is just a matter of hurt pride.
Besides that, the plot was undeniably entertaining. Since I really enjoyed The Selection and Red Queen, I looked forward to Nomi’s chapters. I was generally excited to read about her forced interactions with the Heir, whom I imagined as Prince Maxon/Cal. Hahaha. Come to think of it, Nomi and America Singer are similar in that both of them flinch at the idea of being royalty. Basically, reading this book was a pretty nostalgic experience.
However, I have to look at the other side of the coin. Many aspects of the plot were too familiar, making the characters lose their individuality. Also, the plot twist at the end was so predictable that I took a peek at the last chapter so that I could exclaim, “I knew it!” Finally, I wasn’t a fan of any of the romantic relationships because they were so instantaneous. How can you kiss someone after four or five short conversations? Physical attraction isn’t a valid reason if you want to promote the idea of true love.
All in all, Grace and Fury is a good YA fantasy/dystopian novel. Its message of female empowerment makes it worth your time. But if you’re looking for something to blow your mind, this book might be a disappointment.