Goodreads Rating: 3.63 Stars
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.
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Quick Reasons: lyrical, poignant writing; an intriguing, unique sort of dystopia; imaginative, vivid world-building and imagery; heavy, emotional prose; unexpected, surprising twists; small snippets of a lot of different perspectives woven into the two main ones—and it works; endearing, complex characters; lots to love in this read
They’d done the funeral waltz before, but not like this.
He was not supposed to lift her.
He was not supposed to roar.
Did he understand that it was just a show?
For everyone who read the blurb and scoffed because NO WAY could there ever be a book close to the genius of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus…you might want to reconsider your words. Kirsty Logan breathed poetry into this book—and created something caught between whimsical and realistic, between horrifying and unique, between beautiful and heartbreaking.
The poetic, lyrical quality of the writing works wonders for the stories found within these pages. There’s a sense of awe and child-like wonder that sparks to life from page one; I found myself ensnared by the descriptions, the world building, and the characters. The way this story is set up allows for small snippets of lots of different, fresh perspectives. Instead of focusing solely on the two main ones, there are little chapters spaced throughout with different characters taking the lead. While it gets confusing if you aren’t paying attention to chapter headings, I found this both refreshing and beautifully done—it’s not awkward or stilted, but instead allows minute glimpses into other characters’ heads we wouldn’t have been given otherwise. The poetic language helps to smooth over these jumps, and make them make sense in the grand scheme of the story—after all, a circus is not just one person performing all the acts, but a variety of personalities and conflicts. I enjoyed that we were given small windows into these otherwise private lives.
When people are cruel it’s often said that they have no heart, only a cold space or lump of ice in their chest. This was never true of Avalon. She had no heart, everyone knew, but there was nothing cold about her. In her chest burned an enormous coal, white-hot, brighter than the North Star. North knew the truth about Avalon: she was made of fire, and she would burn them all.
Regardless, the two characters who shine most brilliantly in this sea of color and whimsy are North and Callanish—our Bear Girl and our Gracekeeper. And while North does not have very far to travel in regards to her character growth…Callanish goes through such a transformation, it’s astounding! At the beginning of this book, I’m not ashamed to admit that I sometimes found myself bored by or frustrated with the Gracekeeper. She was flat, almost one-dimensional; set to live her purpose and only that. But after she meets the circus, and North…she changes. I LOVED watching this happen, it’s such a beautiful, redeeming, and heartbreaking growth.
There’s also not really “romance,” at least not for the two main characters. Instead, there’s a sense of…finding oneself/finding a family. North and Callanish both feel segregated and lonely in their lives before meeting; the hope for a new beginning and companionship comes through the read after this beautifully, connecting readers to the pair. We’ve all had this sort of friendship: almost effortless, instantaneous, and immediately accepting/understanding. It’s easy enough to relate to the women and what they’re experiencing.
And in the center of it all she saw two figures: one draped in white, one furred black; both with eyes open moon-round and empty. A small girl and a small bear, hands and paws still linked.
This is a gorgeous read, filled with lyrical prose, whimsy, and a sense of wonder. The larger morals, also, are worked into and woven throughout the journey, a juxtaposition of beautiful and horrifying events that works well to keep readers both entertained and enthralled. The world-building, also, is imaginative and unique. I definitely recommend this to lovers of unique dystopians, beautiful and smooth language, and The Night Circus. I promise this book won’t let you down!