Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

“For every woman who has been told to sit down and be quiet… And who stood up anyway.”

Bold, brutal, and beautiful, Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart is set to release on July 31, 2018, and this powerfully feminist read promises to be a must-read fantasy full of fierce sisterhood, action, and political intrigue.

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison. Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding. Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

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Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart is at its core a feminist story. Set in an Italian-inspired fantasy world full of court intrigue, the bonds of family and fighting for what is right and good in this world feature as prominent themes and motivators for both Serina and Nomi.  Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to this read for months – so I was super excited when I heard it would be the June FairyLoot Book of the Month. And while the afore mentioned premise was highly promising, the delivery felt rushed and lack-luster, the story unoriginal, and the characters a tad bit one-dimensional.

“It isn’t a choice when you don’t have the freedom to say no. A yes doesn’t mean the same thing when it’s the only answer you’re allowed!” – Grace and Fury, Tracy Banghart

Nomi and Serina are, as is evident from the synopsis, the primary characters of this tale. They’ve grown up in a harsh world – in their world, women aren’t allowed any choices, and are forbidden to even learn to read and write. As such, Serina has been taught her entire life how to be the most beautiful girl in the room – all to win the opportunity of a lifetime. From music lessons, to dancing, to being the perfect, and quiet, girl a man would desire. Her family has instilled in her that the only way she can have a good life is to use her looks to ensure a spot being a Grace for the royal heir – and in a world where women have no rights, they may be right. Nomi, by comparison, has been taught how to be her sister’s handmaiden to help her win and keep that spot – whatever the cost. But she has never wanted to live her life serving her sister as a royal, all she’s ever wanted is to be treated equally – and to have the freedom to read, a privilege denied to women.

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Grace and Fury is told through alternating points of view between. As the story shifts between Nomi and Serina, the reader witnesses first-hand the sisters’ experiences as they end up going down very different paths than they ever expected. As a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed this dual perspective, especially as the stories diverged from one another.

In fact, when I first started reading Grace and Fury, I expected Nomi to be my preferred sister – her attitude ad her rebellious nature drew me in right away. They just didn’t hold me. The more and more I read, Serina easily became my favorite, for a variety of reasons – though the largest reason is quite straightforward. Nomi’s storyline was, in my opinion, a rushed and lack-luster tale so strikingly similar to that of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard that I found myself drawing parallels almost every chapter. And they weren’t just similar – let me be clear here, Nomi’s story is essentially the exact same story as Mare’s in Red Queen, right down to her unwilling role as newfound “royalty”, two royal brothers vying for her attention, and the final betrayal. Now, don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed Red Queen, but Grace and Fury palled in comparison, making Nomi’s story unenjoyable and bland to read. In contrast, Serina’s tale was original and fresh, following the beautiful sister as she finds herself thrown off course – launched onto Mount Ruin, where the harsh prison guards rule. They force the women into different clans and make them fight to the death for the food that should be equally distributed – all for sport and oppression.

“Women were forbidden to read. Women were forbidden to choose their husbands, their jobs, their futures […] Forbidden to think for themselves. Forbidden to choose.” – Grace and Fury, Tracy Banghart

Overall, Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart just wasn’t for me. While I appreciated the commentary on feminism and oppression, I wasn’t impressed with the execution overall. This book suffered from rushed and lack-luster storytelling, an unoriginal story that greatly resembles other of the genre, and one-dimensional characters that underwent forced growth for the sake of growth – not because they actually grew or developed as characters (2/5).

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