*This review will contain spoilers!*
“We love just one, but we love them all as well,” he said. “The Graces. We want to be them, and love them, and for them to love us. It’s a curse. Don’t you see? The Grace curse.”
‘Everyone said they were witches.
I desperately wanted to believe it.’
Rumours fly around the Grace family. From a distance they seem perfect: Summer and the twins, Thalia and Fenrin, poised matriarch Esther and Gwydion, indomitable head of the family. They’re just too perfect to be natural. It’s obvious: they’re witches.
River thinks she’s being punished when her mother relocates them to a small town in the middle of nowhere. She finds it hard to fit in, and spends her time trying to fade into the background. She’s dismissive towards everyone
‘I was not like those prattling, chattering things with their careful head tosses and thick, cloying lip gloss.’
except for the Graces. As soon as she sees Fenrin Grace, she’s in love. The same thing happens to every girl who meets him, so she has her work cut out for her. River’s desperate to get the Graces attention. She changes herself to try to be more like them, overthinking every move she makes in her quest.
It works. Summer takes a liking towards River and they quickly become best friends. River craves their power, wanting them to teach her about magic so that she can fix the past.
Because there’s a reason that they had to move. But River’s very good at keeping secrets…
I question why this book’s so popular:
- There is no dialogue for the first 50 pages. It’s just River, endlessly rambling. The beginning is supposed to be gripping! ‘My problem was that I tended to really think things through. Sometimes they’d paralyse me, the ‘what ifs’ of action, and I didn’t do anything at all because it was safer. I was afraid of what could happen if I let it’. Well maybe if you relaxed SOMETHING could happen.
- There’s no plot until Part Two. After 300 pages Wolf, the Graces only other friend, disappears. That gives us 100 pages with a vaguely interesting plot. (I say vaguely because it’s filled with MYSTERY and INTRIGUE and I didn’t care).
- It’s biphobic. I was SO ANGRY. Wolf’s in love with one of the Graces and River ‘wondered which it was – Thalia or Summer‘. Because the idea of a boy being in love with another boy is impossible to comprehend! Turns out, Wolf and Fenrin are in love. “But… he’s always had all those girlfriends”, she cries. YEAH, RIVER. BISEXUALS EXIST.
- The implied eating disorder is never mentioned again. Thalia’s throwing up, and River thinks it’s ‘a routine she’d grown used to‘. Implying that a character has bulimia and then sweeping it under the carpet is ridiculous.
- There’s so much not like other girls crap. ‘I needed to remind her of the reason she’d taken an interest in me, that I wasn’t like other girls’. Yawn.
- The characters are unrealistic. River isn’t even River’s name, she just changes her name on a whim. Who does that?! Then there’s all of the faux-emotional tumblr-worthy brooding – no teenagers genuinely talk like that.
- It’s a conglomeration of every popular YA series ever. The outcast family rumoured to be witches has been ripped straight from Beautiful Creatures. The mysterious siblings everyone wants to be friends with? The Cullen family from Twilight! This would have been a runaway success ten years ago
- But it’s also strangely similar to ‘The Great Gatsby’? I’m not sure if this was intentional. River is an unreliable narrator – like Nick Carraway – and she conceals her past – like Nick Carraway! Who’s the worst character in ‘The Great Gatsby’? Yep, that’s right, and River’s the worst character in ‘The Graces’ too.
I gave it a second star because the ending is intriguing. Turns out, the Graces don’t have magic, but River does. Anything she wills, happens! Power like that, in such a highly-strung, self-obsessed individual? Recipe for disaster…
This is a series opener that works beautifully as a standalone. The plot has a definite arc and is well wrapped-up: we meet River, we know she has secrets, we discover those secrets and it ends. It would have been nice if this could have been more succinct, instead of so rambling. If you take out the swathes of nothingness at the beginning, it might have kept my interest a little longer.
The future installments have a lot of potential, so I’m probably going to carry on with the series. After this much work establishing the plot, it’ll be interesting to see where Laure Eve takes the story. I just hope she deals with some of the more problematic aspects, because I felt so uncomfortable reading this.