North is the bear girl in a circus – a circus that consists of tiny boats travelling from one island to the next in the hope of earning their income. Callanish lives on a tiny island and looks after ‚graces‘, birds that are given to the dead that their families bring to her underwater burial site that surrounds her island. North wants to get out of marrying the circus owner’s son; Callanish longs to see her mother again. After a tumultuous storm, their paths cross.
As magical and fascinating as North and Callanish’s world of endless water and tiny islands was in the beginning, as common it became the further the book progressed. Names like „Excalibur“ and „Avalon“ and technologies like gramophones quickly broke the spell. I don’t mind the latter if I get a proper steampunk impression from a fictional place – sadly not the case – and I don’t mind the first if the author gives at least a tiny hint when and where a novel is set. Referencing a medieval saga and then not commenting on it is just a bad writing decision that ruins a book for me.
The action started off quite nicely, and the two main protagonists, North and Callanish, made an intriguing first impression with their respective ways of life, one in a circus in a boat, the other on an island in the middle of an underwater graveyard. Altogether, the first half of the book was interesting as new points of view via other characters were added and things were set in motion. Sadly, the second half of the book was considerably less exciting, even boring at times because practically nothing happened and the little things that happened were so common and irrelevant to the plot that I was wondering why they were even mentioned. The additional points of view no longer gave new information or thoughts but seemed a mere way to get a higher page count by repeating what the reader already has guessed.
The final bang of the book? Wasn’t there for me. I had hoped for a grand and exciting finale considering the setting – water, fire, people trying to escape both – but all the end had to offer was a meek happy ever after.
Concerning the title, I’m questioning why it was chosen. One Gracekeeper is among the protagonists, another one makes a very short appearance. Their work as MCs of burials only matters at one point of the entire plot, and otherwise only provides a backdrop that could have been anything else. Is the title supposed to indicate that all characters keep their grace no matter what happens? For me that would imply that they had previously walked through life gracefully – but their backstories certainly don’t give that impression.