Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the super early digital ARC of This Vicious Grace! My first selling point was that Tamora Pierce plugged it, and then I thought the synopsis was grabbing so I *ahem* definitely didn’t put down my TBR to read it. A YA fantasy with a battle between the gods, a snarky bodyguard romance, and banter for days? Heck yes
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: This Vicious Grace
- Series: The Last Finestra, #1
- Author: Emily Thiede
- Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 6/28/22
- Length: 448 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes with a caution to my religious readers, for religious interpretation and premarital relations
Here is the synopsis:
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?
Considering how disenchanted I have become with YA fantasy recently, I did enjoy this one.
The population of the country has settled onto islands where the Goddess uses a pair of warriors to keep swarms of demons at bay. This happens maybe once every 20 or so years, which gives the islands plenty of time to identify the next Finestra and Fonte, train them, and have them battle ready.
I thought the Italian inspired lore and names were cool. Each chapter holds a proverb in the old language, and I made a game out of guessing the English translation before reading it.
The plot is fairly straightforward and fast paced. We get some lore and history of Dea vs Crollo, the two deities engaged in this battle, and I honestly thought the religious lore and customs that developed as a result were extremely well done. The populace lives the way they do as a result of the world they live in, namely extremely devout, hierarchal, and ready to save the wealthy when the demons come.
The worldbuilding is there on a micro level as well! We know the mood of the fortress, the city, the figures in power. The weather and the hidden beaches. What they eat and drink, the local customs, and how social structure is accomplished.
The magic? Pretty standard, it works on an energy type of system but becomes magnified and more powerful when combined with other people’s.
The characters were awesome. Alessa is the Finestra, sheltered into solitude and waiting to find a Fonts, a battle partner, that she won’t kill by accident. Dante is the bodyguard that she hires and he is just … ha ha way too much. A bad boy with a bookish side. The other fontes were funny and also good characters. The banter for days is real.
Now let’s get into the stronger stuff: I think it’s awesome and important to explore the theme of interpreting your religion and making it work for you, and I think it’s something that many Catholic teenagers struggle with. I think the author brought this into the book and also stressed the importance of friendship, community, working together, and not going life alone, all of which are A+++ themes. THAT SAID, this is a YA book and I would have stopped the theme before throwing celibacy out the window, especially since it was with someone other than her intended (even though it was an arranged marriage). I know that self realization through sex is like the cool topic in YA right now but I just hate the trope, and if I’m analyzing this from a Catholic standpoint the author definitely took a FANTASTIC theme … too far.
Also I would have liked to see one or two major character deaths since the ending is a huge and hugely devastating battle. I never find it realistic when everyone ends up living. The author copped out of one huge plot twist with a good save, a very good save, but I think I wanted more death.
Lastly: this is small details but the cover does not scream “fantasy”. I would not cover buy it as is, although I hope that doesn’t deter people
All in all: great plot, great pace, great world building on both a micro and macro level, and good themes even if one went beyond propriety. I would totally recommend it and definitely plan on owning a copy of both This Vicious Grace and it’s sequels
Thanks again to Wednesday Books 🖤 all opinions are my own