Sisters Serina and Nomi have very different fates: one in the palace, one in prison. Serina has been groomed her whole life to be a Grace, someone to stand by the heir to the throne as the shining, subjugated example of a perfect woman, while Nomi, her rebellious younger sister, has been groomed for a life of work as her handmaiden.
But when Nomi catches the heir’s eye and Serina takes the fall for her dangerous secret, both girls are trapped in lives they never wanted, and they must fight to be free–but not without freeing other women who suffer in positions just like theirs.
Deception lurks in every corner, both on a prison island an in the palace, and both sisters must fight to survive, and most importantly, to gain the life each desires.
This book was smokin’.
And I’m not saying it in the way that there are smokin’ hot guys in it (although there are hot princes and guards), I’m saying it in the way that this is a fierce fantasy novel with fiery women who aren’t afraid to fight for what’s right.
Every single notion I’ve ever said and you’ve ever thought about systematically white fantasies can fly out the window right now. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, when I say “systematically white fantasy” I mean things like medieval (aka historically white) inspired fantasies or fantasies with lords and ladies etc.
Obviously, the oppression of women isn’t just a white-person thing, but for the sake of categorizing this type of fantasy (which is predominantly medieval inspired things), we’re just going to say “systematically white.”
When I walked into reading Grace and Fury, I have to admit that I was kind of expecting to hate it. It sounded like another systematically white fantasy that has oppressed women who never end up fighting against the system, or at the very least, hinting that they’ll fight against the system.
But Grace and Fury is the complete opposite of that. It’s about sisters fighting back against the patriarchy and the oppression of multiple decades to gain the equality they deserve.
Nomi and Serina are sisters and they’re fighting back against a corrupt system that subjects women, even though each is out of her own element.
Serina was raised to be the Grace, the one who was pampered and raised to hopefully be chosen as one of the established women in the palace, and hopefully the bearer of the firstborn heir, if she was lucky. Nomi was raised as a handmaiden, and she’s rebellious and unsuited for any Grace-like duties, with her penchant for reading (which is illegal) and other activities that are forbidden.
Yet, in a turn of events, Nomi (my fierce, fierce queen) is the one who ends up stuck in the palace as a Grace, and Serina is banished to a place where she must fight to survive. AKA, both of the girls are completely out of their elements.
The message in this book is completely spot on, and exactly what I’ve been hoping for in systematically white fantasies for all this time. I don’t have anything against the genre, I have something against how the writers of this genre handle the topics, such as the subjugation of women.
Banghart portrays her message–women fighting back against the patriarchy and rebelling to gain equality–in a fierce, feminist way that I wish all systematically white fantasies did (or, alternatively, write a non-systematically white fantasy).
I had a wonderful time reading about girls fighting back, and both the social trials Nomi had to go through and the physical ones Serina underwent. It was entertaining, I sped through this book in a couple of days, and I wanted to devour the whole thing up and also savor it at the same time.
The one place where this book lost the half star was in the romance. The romance wasn’t anything terrible or in-the-way or offensive, I just felt like it wasn’t necessary. We didn’t need the romance, just like we don’t need every character in the world paired up. Obviously, romance is like a standard requirement for YA & YA fantasy, but I feel like this book just didn’t need the romance and didn’t divert enough page time to it for me to feel invested in the romance.
I mean, there’s certainly some hot princes and hot guards, but who to trust is the real question. There’s betrayal and all sorts of royal politics that keep this book engaging, and the intensity definitely sped up towards the end when things and emotions got more and more heated.
Also, although I wish the protagonists were more diverse and that things like trans women were talked about, I also understand how if a white woman wrote about these things, it wouldn’t be done to the level that a POC or queer woman could have. So like, hello POC & LGBTQ+ women? BRING ME THIS BOOK.
Overall, I very much enjoyed reading this novel and would definitely recommend everyone to check it out. It’s got a fantastic message that I believe a lot of books need to consider, and it works towards pointing out a current flaw within books of its type.
If you’re looking for a fierce, feminist fantasy novel, run, don’t walk, towards Tracy Banghart’s Grace and Fury. You can thank me later.
Thank you so much to The NOVL @ Book Con and Hachette for providing me with an advance reader’s copy!