The Graces by Laure Eve
Published September 2016 by Faber & Faber
Source: Allen & Unwin
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Everyone said the Graces were witches.They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.All I had to do was show them that person was me.Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?
I requested The Graces by Laure Eve before seeing quite a few negative reviews, so when I finally sat down to read it, it was with low expectations. Perhaps that set me up for a more positive reading experience because I ended up completely enthralled by this story.
River Page and her mother have moved to a small coastal town in England. She's been attending the local school for a few months, keeping a close eye on the Grace children. Fifteen year old Summer is in River's year. Seventeen year olds Thalia and Fenrin are non-identical twins. The family are said to be witches and River finds herself as interested in them as everyone else, perhaps even more so.
I could instantly see why some people dislike this story. There was something very familiar about it, the way in which the Grace family is treated reminded me of Cullen family in Twilight. And yes, River seemed to think she was above the other girls at her school and would be the chosen one to become a friend of the Graces, but that's because she's not being honest with her story. There's a reason why she wants to befriend them but you have to follow her journey to find that out.
River is an unreliable narrator in that it was obvious she wasn't revealing all of her past. The reader is led to believe that her father abandoned them and that her mother blames her. But that's not the whole story, there is more to River than she's willing to admit. I found River fascinating. She's so sure she's being covert in the way she treats the Graces, not letting them see how she longs to be their friend. If you removed the witch factor, this could have been about any teen trying to fit in.
This is a story of obsession and infatuation. It's about River's desperate need to belong, to be a part of something, for answers. By the end it's clear than River doesn't need the help of the Graces, she had the answer all along.
The story wasn't perfect, there were some descriptions I found strange, eg. 'manlier vanilla'. And there was a scene where the Grace parents are having a conversation with their backs to River, but later in the scene she describes a look Mrs Grace sends Fenrin which she obviously would not have been able to see from her position. But other than I enjoyed the writing and it was a quick and captivating read.
The Graces is a coming of age story, twisted with mystery, desire, and witchcraft. It's about the need to belong and to know your own strengths. I found it compelling and unpredictable and am keen to see where the sequel goes.
Ableist language: idiot, crazy, dumb, 'pitched a fit', crackpot, insane.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy. RRP A$19.99.
Cover design: Faber and Jan Bielecki
At first I was a bit disappointed when I saw the UK/AU cover because the US version is stunning. But, this one grew on me, especially once I'd read the book and saw how well it suited the story. Plus, navy blue and gold is a wonderful combination.
I started with a base of WnW Nocturnal. I used two different golds: Disney brand in Belle and Ulta3 Gold Rush Fever. I used acrylic paint for the shells and feathers.