Book Review | The Grace Year

Another book toward my Popsugar reading challenge this one fits in the A Book Set Mostly or Entirely Outdoors category.

The resistance starts here… 

No one speaks of the grace year.
It’s forbidden.
We’re told we have the power to lure grown men from their beds, make boys lose their minds, and drive the wives mad with jealousy. That’s why we’re banished for our sixteenth year, to release our magic into the wild before we’re allowed to return to civilization.
But I don’t feel powerful.
I don’t feel magical.

Tierney James lives in an isolated village where girls are banished at sixteen to the northern forest to brave the wilderness – and each other – for a year. They must rid themselves of their dangerous magic before returning purified and ready to marry – if they’re lucky.

It is forbidden to speak of the grace year, but even so every girl knows that the coming year will change them – if they survive it…

Amazon | Goodreads | Hive

I have to say I’m so glad that I’m going back through some of the books that are outstanding on my TBR because there are far too many books waiting on my shelves and if they are anything like this one then I have some real gems ahead of me. The Grace Year is a fantastic book I don’t think I’ve felt so emotionally connected to a book in quite a while, I honestly went through a full range of feelings and I was hooked from the first page to the last.

The setting and atmosphere in this book are outstanding, the secluded, restrictive and watchful community where women are, of course, on the bottom rung of the hierarchy and are blamed for the faults of men, from the start it feels like no one can trust each other and will turn on each other just so that they are not in the spotlight. This is set against the forest full of dangers and people that have been cast out from the community serving as a reminder of what is to be avoided, and the Grace Year which looms as a constant threat that no one speaks of. The injustice seeps off the page right from the start and I got really angry at how the women were treating each other and allowing themselves to be treated.

Next up it was dread, I could actually feel it in the pit of my stomach as the girls make their way to the wilderness for their Grace Year to get rid of their magic, as you start to see how manipulative some of them become and desperate to survive on their own terms. I loved the fact that as the girls found their home for the next year and started trying to settle in I found myself really questioning if the magic was real or not, the creepy and horrific situations felt completely unexplainable otherwise and it has to be said that the author did not go easy on these characters, it was definitely a nightmarish scene. I have to say though that the gruesome nature of what happens didn’t feel gratuitous, I think it fits in really well with the message of the story and heightened that flight or fight survival atmosphere.

It’s hard not to love Tierney, the free spirit in a restricted world, who at the beginning seems like she might have a shot at getting through unscathed until the girls are alone and you realise how dangerous it is to be the outsider. I did feel like I was going through this journey with her and I admired how much strength she had to continue when everything was set against her. I think the author portrayed the girls so well, the hierarchies and groups and behaviours felt so believable, I would say that most people have come across these types of people in their lives, not to this extreme obviously, but it just made it all the more scary for me seeing the similarities.

I loved how the story draws on aspects from history and uses them to turn this at times terrifying story into an almost hopeful message, I can’t really explain that in too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the book but I’ll just say that I had some preconceived notions that I was glad were turned on their head by the end of the story. The plot really is incredible and clever and there are so many elements of it that had me thinking about it for a good while after I’d finished reading, this is the kind of book that will be stuck in your head for a while.

I would highly recommend The Grace Year it is at the same time ghastly and empowering, thrilling and heart-breaking, it was a reading experience I won’t forget in a hurry.

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