Book eighteen of my summer reading challenge and the only audiobook I have read for this challenge.
This Vicious Grace
Her gift can save . . . or it can kill.
Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.
Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.
Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?
It has been too long since my last audiobook, but what a good story to get back into them with. This Vicious Grace appeared to have all the right elements for a book that I would enjoy, a fantasy book with magic, the need for survival, and some political intrigue, which it definitely delivered on. It also has a really interesting setting, there are strong Italian influences in the book, or maybe ancient Roman influences is more accurate, but whichever, it helped conjure the atmosphere of Saverio clearly and easily.
I really enjoyed the story but what initially drew me in was that Alessa couldn’t touch anyone without killing them, she is supposed to have a Fonte to help in the fight against the Scarabeo but all her options have so far died in training. I loved that from the outset Alessa feels like an outsider to the tradition of the Finestra because her gift is not working the way that it has for those before her, it made for a fascinating story as the people of Saverio are questioning whether she is the real Finestra or whether she will be able to save them.
Cue the hunt for a bodyguard and the introduction of my favourite character, Dante, mysterious and secretive with a sharp wit and a lot to lose. Dante and Alessa together were great, at first they barely tolerate each other but as they spend more time together he really starts to bolster her confidence and pushes her to be the Finestra that the people need to see. I love how their relationship develops as well, there were plenty of moments in this book that I enjoyed that were just the two of them getting to know each other and building a connection that felt very deep and supportive.
Alessa’s development in this book is great, she starts as a very meek character and feels very ostracised from those around her as she can’t get ahold of her gift and is under a lot of pressure. Still, she soon starts to make decisions that go against the grain and shows a little resilience. This leads to a quiet defiance of the traditions that the Finestra usually adheres to and standing up for herself and against people who are actively working against her. I loved that she kind of made her own family out of the remaining Fonte’s and that they all come round to her eventually even though they are a little afraid of her.
I have to say one of the things that maybe let this book down a little was some of the side characters, there were quite a few and they all were important to different parts of the story but I felt like there were some that I really couldn’t tell apart. This was mostly true of the Fonte’s, there were quite a few of them and some of them blended together for me and I couldn’t remember from the names who each of them were, they did have some defining characteristics but maybe just needed slightly stronger voices.
The narration in this was great, Carlotta Brentan was the voice for the majority of the book and did an excellent job, there was also a chapter narrated by Michael Gallagher, which was interesting. I quite like that they added this new voice in to denote an unusual scene in the book but it was also a little strange at the same time to hear a different voice for a character that Carlotta had already given a voice to. Overall though I really enjoyed listening to this and feeling that tension in the character’s voices as Divorando gets closer and closer, it was very well done.
This Vicious Grace is a very exciting book, with action and scheming and plenty of secrets all around, and an ending that has me looking forward to seeing what happens next for Dante and Alessa and the people of Saverio.