“The dread today is hard, but the relief will be so much finer. I prefer to keep the devil on a schedule.”
Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all? Find out in this lush, atmospheric fantasy novel that entwines love, lies, and sacrifice.
Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.
Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.
Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.
DISCLAIMER: I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED SEPTEMBER 18, 2018
TW: animal death, gore, body horror
Oh, this was an unusual one. I don’t think I could have predicted how unusual it would be from the summary alone, but I’m delighted to say that it really exceeded expectations, especially after a bit of a rocky start. A story focusing on a bargain between a village and the devil, Strange Grace is all about the consequences when that bargain falls apart, and what it was worth to begin with.
Easily the most notable feature is the prose. There’s a wickedly fluid cant to it, impossibly vivid and certainly unsettling, especially in regard to descriptions of the forest and the way it so smoothly switches between characters. The circumstances only help make it all the more eerie, too; in a book about boys being sacrificed to the woods every seven years, the prose is gorgeous, and the contrast is ominous as hell. Additionally, about midway through the book, a non-linear element is introduced, placed in such a way that it’s jarring, but delightfully appropriately so. I was beyond impressed with how well woven the story was between these two things.
The characters, though, are certainly the glue. Rhun is honestly exactly what the internet means when it calls someone a cinnamon roll, and Arthur is Rhun’s prickly opposite, all fire and thorns and frustration to Rhun’s boundless love and patience. And then there’s Mairwen, a fearless, stubborn witch who’s going to accept nothing less than the truth. They’re the trio I never knew I needed so badly, and their complex web of relationships was so tense and compelling that I loved every moment of it, even the moments of conflict.
Well, except for a couple moments. That rocky start I mentioned? Thankfully it was largely resolved with character growth, but Arthur’s early POVs felt steeped in homophobia regarding Rhun, and I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable that Arthur was shaping up to be a hero and Rhun was slated for sacrifice. It was a tougher patch to get through, and if I had put it down then, I wouldn’t have seen the genuine growth later, so I’m glad I kept going. It did give me pause, though, made me extremely disinclined to like Arthur as a protagonist. There’s also something about his backstory that doesn’t sit well with me, but I can’t say for sure because I sort of feel like it was resolved in a positive light, and at the same time, I feel like it’s a backstory best critiqued by someone who’s trans before I start running my mouth because of the way gender is framed then and sometimes later in the book.
Overall, though, I really, really enjoyed Strange Grace, and I’m looking forward to the September release! It’s haunting in a wonderful way, and the ending was satisfying beyond belief. If it interests you, be sure to preorder it before it comes out on September 18 this year!