Originally published: 10 October 2019
Author: Kim Liggett
Published by: Del Ray
Genre: YA Dystopian Fiction
Page count: 416
Reading dates: 21-26 August 2019
No one speaks of the grace year.
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…
I really enjoyed this feminist dystopian novel. Tierney James is a great female lead. The third sister (out of a family of five) to be sent away for her grace year, she is more prepared than most. Having been treated like a son by her father she has been taught to fish, handle a knife and take of herself.
It is believed that girls have magic, which peaks around the age of 16 – their magic enables them to lure grown men from their beds and to drive women mad with jealousy. It is believed their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac. During their grace year they are expected to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage.
The story starts on Veiling Day – the day that the boys of the village choose who will be their wife. There are 12 boys and 33 girls – the girls have no say, the boys make their claim and the girls have to accept their decision. Those who are not chosen are sent to work in the fields or to work in the labour houses.
As soon as Veiling Day is over, the girls begin their grace year. They are escorted by guards into to the wilderness and are expected to survive the year. They live in a compound with shacks to sleep in and a well to drink from. They are expected to hunt once the supplies they have bought with them run out. And they have to contend with poachers who will do their best to hunt down the girls to kill them. But it is drilled into them that they must return, even if they are in pieces after the poachers have got them. Any girls who do not return bring shame upon their families and their younger sisters bear the brunt of this, being banished to the outskirts.
Full of adventure, this was a fusion of Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games and Only Ever Yours. I loved this – a terrific read. It is dark and disturbing – these girls are pretty horrible to each other. It makes you feel angry (the way the women are treated by men and each other). There is one scene where a man accuses his wife of using her magic and has her executed so he can choose a new wife is shocking! It was gruesome in places, but not as bad as it could have been. With teenage girls as the lead characters, I guess this is classed as a YA book, but it can comfortably be read by someone older (like me!).
Many thanks to Bishneen for sending me an advanced copy for this book.
About the author:
Kim Liggett, originally from the rural midwest, moved to New York City to pursue a career in the arts. She’s the author of Blood and Salt, Heart of Ash, The Last Harvest (Bram Stoker Award Winner), The Unfortunates, and The Grace Year. Kim spends her free time studying tarot and scouring Manhattan for rare vials of perfume and the perfect egg white cocktail.