When a teen moves with her mother to a new town, she finds herself in thrall to the Grace siblings: twins Thalia and Fenrin, and younger sister Summer. By the time Laure Eve‘s aptly titled The Graces opens, the narrator — who has renamed herself River — is bound and determined to breach the popular and mysterious siblings’ inner circle and become one of them. Unfortunately, the novel fails to be as compelling or secretive as its eponymous family.
River is a textbook Mary Sue, without even the stereotypical clumsiness to distinguish her from everyone else. She styles herself as an aloof teen, different from all the rest in the way every high school loner wants to be. In fact, she’s a bland and unreliable narrator, and her self-absorbed opining set this reader’s teeth on edge.
Several times throughout the novel, she refers to her “coal-black and coal-bright voice,” which crops up to make morbid and violent asides to the situation at hand. The child of recently separated parents, River’s rebellion and darker aspects read like petulant acting out, until it’s revealed that something more than youthful ire is at work.
It’s difficult to talk about the problems with The Graces‘ protagonist and plot without giving away the narrative twist. Suffice it to say that roughly two thirds of the novel consists of wheel-spinning plot, and this is followed by twists that fall like dominoes. Several revelations about River take the place of actual character development, and what had become a dark story wraps up in deus ex machina neatness.
The Graces‘ only saving element is the mystery of whether or not the titular family are witches, cursed, or both. Different theories abound, and the novel retains ambiguity to its last pages. However, the are-they-or-aren’t-they of the story isn’t enough to save it from flat characters and problematic tropes.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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Image Credit: Ozzy Delaney