the gracekeepers by kirsty logan
I was drawn to this debut novel by the cover and the explanation in the synopsis that the story is inspired by Scottish fairytales and myths. Without this early suggestion, I likely would've primarily identified it as a post-apocalyptic novel. But it really isn't so much, as the point of the story isn't about explaining why the world has become the way it is. This was difficult at first because sometimes the reader simply has to trust that eventually they'll understand what's happening, but ultimately I enjoyed this aspect.
The reader is immersed in damp world, where the majority of the population lives on water (damplings), while the elite live tenaciously on land (landlockers). These roles cause strong political, religious, and, especially, social divides. I suppose you could even read it as being set on another world altogether, though references to and practice of pagan rites and the virgin in blue makes this less likely.
Logan's debut novel is my first experience reading her work and I am very glad I requested Random House allow me to review this lovely work. When I saw that the chapters are each a different character's point of view - some only once, others multiple times - I was nervous about this. I frequently dislike POV changing, because I become so invested in certain characters that I often enter into another character's POV feeling prejudiced. But Logan skillfully justifies these switches. Many of the characters are so disparate in their experiences or even just their physical location that we need their narratives to understand what's happening. Sometimes I felt like I knew what a character was like and what their motivations were, only to have that upended when the story switches to their perspective. Sometimes this felt like unreliable narration, which was an interesting and clever addition.
At it's heart, The Gracekeepers is a romance. Both of multiple characters and their stories about those they've loved and lost, but also of a particular couple and how they come together. I have to say, I didn't adore the very final chapter - not because of the way the story ended but rather because of the stylistic choice used and the way it was executed - it felt jarring in relation to the rest of the book and ultimately unnecessary. However, disregarding this minor quibble, I embraced this fairytale and Logan as a writer so much that I'm off to buy the Kindle edition of her short story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairy Tales.
*The Gracekeepers will be released in the United States on May 19th, 2015.