The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

9781101890585audiobook
The Gracekeepers
By Kirsty Logan
Narrated By: Katy Townsend
Publisher: Random House Audio
ISBN: 9781101890585
Unabridged: 11 hr 20 min

Synopsis:

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance. 

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives – offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future. 

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age. 


(New) Thoughts

Callanish is a Gracekeeper, charged with seeing that those who have passed are given to their final place of rest in the ocean. She resides on an isolated island resigning her lonely life to a form of punishment for a mistake once made in her past. North travels by ship with the circus Excalibur working to sustain a living and living with her own burdens. When fate entwines the path of these to women, it will soon shed a new light on their opposing worlds and events past.

There are a few elements that when utilized properly can create a genuinely unique and rewarding story. The Gracekeepers catches two of these brilliantly in its superb delivery of magical realism and a floating circus.  My love for this story actually makes it rather difficult to place my experience into words. This is the type of tale that requires savoring and personal exploration. It is as complex as comfortable. I will not attempt to dissect the plot-line for this review, but instead briefly summarize my own feelings.

While sporting a more limited ensemble of characters, they are not without heart. I found Callanish and North to be of great interest and quite honestly, endearing. Though I will admit that their growth felt slow at times, and I found myself drawn more to the world Logan has created. Divided between the land and ship dwelling inhabitants, the damplings and landlockers create an enchanting and atmospheric read that blends fairytale and folklore beautifully. For all of the sorrow and loneliness presented, there is something of great delight to be discovered within The Gracekeepers that will be an individualized experience ranging from fascination to borderline confusion at times.

Logan’s writing is immersive and  with a poetic prose, promising a unique and magical encounter.  Accompanied with Katy Townsend’s smooth narration, each alternating perspective transitions seamlessly. Finding a permanent home in my bookish heart, The Gracekeepers offers something rare and unusual for fans of magical realism and folklore alike.

Untitled design Enjoyed with a nice cup of lavender tea with a hint of vanilla.

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Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

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Spindle Fire
By Lexa Hillyer
Publisher: Harper Teen
ISBN13: 9780062440877
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale
Synopsis:

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay. 


my-thought

“One night reviled, Before break of morn, Amid the roses wild, All tangled in thorns, The shadow and the child Together were born.”

Spindle Fire comes in at an average rating of 3.35 stars on Goodreads.com. This fact , while not terrible, quite honestly breaks my book loving heart a little. I am very biased, as I instantly fell head over hills for this beautiful re-imagining of the classic tale, Sleeping Beauty.  And well, we tend to place the things we love on a pedestal, which is where I feel Spindle Fire deserves to be.

Following two sisters, we are delivered a solid story brimming with fantasy and adventure. Aurora is presented as delicate and gentle, a romantic. Having paid the debt of her sense of touch and voice to the fairies, she is the opposite of her sister Isabelle who is headstrong and outspoken but has also paid her own price; her vision. In spite of their many differences, they share an inseparable bond. So when Aurora falls victim to a sleeping curse and the land is at risk of an invasion by the faerie queen Malfleur, Isbe (Isabelle) immediately sets out on a treacherous journey to save them both. But Aurora must brave her own voyage into the unknown as she awakens in a dark and tormented land.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Spindle Fire is that it is read as two wonderful stories that come together to form one amazing tale. Narrated through alternating point of views, we follow each sister on their personal quest for answers and resolution. For all of their opposite traits, Aurora and Isbe complement one another exquisitely. They have developed a system of communication that allows them to overcome their lack of vision and speech and share an admirable and endearing relationship as sisters. One appears almost fragile, while the other is more daring and rebellious. Yet, we soon discover that they are both equally matched in terms of courage and driven by love and loyalty. Despite all odds, they are willing to sacrifice everything for the chance to be together again and save the land and those they care for. In terms of female protagonists, they the sisters offer a healthy dose of diversity and complexity. If I had one complaint, it would be that I would have liked for the author to explore these elements further. I did manage to find myself adoring them both for a variety of reasons.

The setting and world building are ripe with magic and fantastical elements. Shrouded in a mystifying darkness, it effortlessly met my expectations as far as fairy tales go. Spindle Fire contains the very essence of dreams and nightmares and Hillyer has pulled everything together with what feels like incredible ease, creating something almost familiar but completely original and refreshing.  Add the combined atmospheric facets of Aurora’s story and Isabelle’s high stakes adventure, and it quickly becomes a complete and well-rounded experience that I felt offered many promises and successfully delivered.

With engaging and seamless writing, this is fast paced read. And while there are certainly undertones of a love story occurring within (it is a fairy tale), I appreciated that Hillyer did not allow this to overshadow the real magic and narrative. With a conclusion that was satisfying while still allowing for a smooth segue into a sequel, I am highly anticipating the second book in this duology.

Recommending for fans of Marissa Meyer’s  and Colleen Oakes . If you enjoy a good retelling or fairy tale, this is one to add to your shelves.

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Snowpiercer Vol. 1: The Escape

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Snowpiercer Vol. 1: The Escape
By Jacques Lob
Illustrator: Jean-Marc Rochette
Translator: Virginie Selavy
Publisher: Titan Comics
ISBN13: 9781782761334
Pages: 110
Genre: Graphic Novel/Dystopian

Synopsis:

Snowpiercer is the enthralling and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic graphic novel that inspired the critically acclaimed movie starring Chris Evans (Captain America, Fantastic Four). Originally published in French, this marks the first time that Snowpiercer will be available in English.

In a harsh, uncompromisingly cold future where Earth has succumbed to treacherously low temperatures, the last remaining members of humanity travel on a train while the outside world remains encased in ice.  

The surviving community are not without a social hierarchy; those that travel at the front of the train live in relative luxury whilst those unfortunate enough to be at the rear remain clustered like cattle in claustrophobic darkness. Yet, things are about to change aboard the train as passengers become disgruntled…

My Thoughts:

This is a unique situation for myself. I have found that elusive case of a film actually superseding a book, or in this instance, a graphic novel. I discovered Snowpiercer on Netflix a few years ago and fell hard. The haunting cinematography and fast paced dystopian plot impressed. It also happens to boast a favorable cast. So I picked up the graphic novel with a pretty high standard in place.

The plot offers a potential that was better executed on-screen and failed to fully come to life within the pages of this first volume. The blurb is pretty definitive and there is no need to explore the concept in-depth. Perhaps the biggest barrier standing between myself and possible love for this post apocalyptic story would be dialog. It  leaned heavily towards dry and flat. There seemed to be a lack of real depth within the story, yet so much was  happening.

The artwork was the one element that actually carried me through to the end. Had it not been for the bold, grey-scale illustrations offering a simplistic yet fitting representation of this bleak and dismal situation, I may have shelved this one. I struggle to imagine this story unfolding in full colour. Even the film was visually drab in the best of ways.

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The characters play their part but offer little in terms of interest. Again, I have to blame dialog. I found myself disappointed with the portrayal of women within this container like society, viewed more as sexual objects and contributing little of value. To be fair, that could be the result of the current societal structure in such confined spaces, but I could not get into or support the idea.

While this was certainly not a terrible read, it failed to be an impactful one. I do feel that the GN places more emphasis on the political aspect of the story and manages to convey this successfully which was appreciated. But there were a lot of lack luster moments that struggled to capture just how dire the situation has become. I have read that there are some translation issues that might be at fault, but I honestly cannot offer any insight into the truth of those comments.

The end result for myself was “okay”. I don’t believe I will pick up the second volume right now. This is a series that boasts a fascinating story-line but is moving at a very leisurely rate. If you don’t mind the pacing, perhaps test the waters. For now however, I recommend the film which happens to be a favorite of mine.

Here is a trailer for those of you who might be interested.

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