Grace and Fury is a dual character, third-person limited omniscient book featuring two sisters, Serina and Nomi. The chapters switch back and forth from Serina to Nomi as they each work to help the other because life is 100% not going they way they had planned. Instead, Nomi --destined to be Serina's handmaiden when she is chosen to be one of three of the Heir's Graces (who live like a sultan's harem)-- is selected to be one of the Graces. And not 24 hours after being relegated to handmaiden, Sernia is arrested and sentenced to imprisonment on Mount Ruin, a post-erupted-volcano wasteland-island. There, Serina learns the value in thinking for herself and not accepting the oppression that women of Viridia live every day. So, will she accept the new normal of an imprisoned woman? Or will she take that strength and do force change? Nomi, meanwhile, must learn to dance, wear make-up and flowy gowns, make conversational small talk, and be the embodiment of Viridian Female as a Grace. But, as the rebellious middle child, she's not content to that lifestyle-- plus she feels horrible for being the reason for Serina's imprisonment. She vows to free Serina, but can she find an ally? And is he who he really says he is?
Grace and Fury has some problems that prevent me from giving it a higher rating. The most annoying aspect was how its narration is set up. Yes, I typically prefer first-person narrators, but I can appreciate that some stories call for other types of narration. What I disliked, though, was that the chapters were very short and *had* to switch back and forth between Nomi and Serina. PLUS, Banghart ended each chapter with a cliffhanger. It felt like cheating-- like Banghart was relying on the reader wanting to know the resolution to the cliffhanger to keep coming back to the book instead of compelling storytelling and connections to characters.
In addition, the short chapters did not lend themselves to actual connections with Serina and/or Nomi. I never felt like I was really rooting for them or their causes. One of the things I love about reading is truly melding with characters: feeling their emotions, desiring their wants, aching for their needs, truly living vicariously through them. I never had that with Nomi or Serina; I was much more a fly on the wall. And Banghart's *telling* instead of *showing* didn't help in that regard, either.
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Some of the plot points were too convenient and/or unrealistic. There is no way that Nomi is the only woman who could read and who figured out the "secret" history of the women rulers. There is no way that there wasn't a faction --other than the second-born son of the Superior-- that Nomi could team up with. There's no way that Nomi didn't find another dissenter among the older Graces. It's way too convenient that two of the three Graces chosen that year didn't want to be chosen by the Heir to join his bed on his birthday. There's no way that soft and pampered Serina so quickly takes to the fight-or-die situation and that she picks up on fighting so quickly. (That said, we don't get any hints pertaining to the passage of time within the story outside of the Heir's birthday is in 14 days.)
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Plus, some aspects, it was obvious (to a more mature reader at least) that Banghart was setting up for a betrayal. Asa. I believed for about the second quarter of the book that he was as kind and magnanimous as he pretended to be. But then, everything just seemed to easy. But with Banghart's obvious love of cliffhangers, it was undeniable that she would throw more "twists" at the end, too, and Asa's involvement with Nomi's rebellion was the obvious choice.
My reactions while reading Grace and Fury were a rollercoaster: I enjoyed it wholeheartedly, and then I was frustrated by its back-and-forth narration, then I was enamored again, and then I was ready for it to hurry up and end. In all, Grace and Fury is a great idea, but in execution, it was rough. It read like a debut author's third draft, not a polished novel.