Book Review: Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Every seven years, the people of Strange Grace send a willing sacrifice into the forest in exchange for health, crops, and a comfortable life, but it's only been three years, and the Slaughter Moon has risen. Rhun has always known he'd be next, but Arthur wants to be the one to go, and Mairwen is inexplicably drawn to the forest, and each will have their part to play in uncovering the secrets behind their town's deal with the devil of the forest.

Book Review: Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton | reading, books, fantasy, young adult, lgbt+
Title: Strange Grace
Pages: 400
My Rating: 3 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received an ecopy of this book via Edelweiss. This has not influenced my review.*

This book has a different sort of premise, and I was especially drawn in by what I’d seen reviewers mention about a non-binary character and a polyamorous relationship. This is a hard review for me to write though because it certainly wasn’t a bad book, but it didn’t end up being quite what I expected.

As I said, this was a somewhat unique premise, and I liked that. The book was a bit slow for a while, but it picked up around the halfway mark when the characters went into the forest. From then on, things were mysterious and intriguing and a little bit twisty.

I also loved the forest! The forest and its creatures, devil/god, and magic were very cool. I can’t say too much because of spoilers, but I especially loved how certain things were described. They sounded strangely beautiful. Very nature-y and animal-y. And the compelling aspect of the magic was neat to read about.

My biggest issue though was how distanced I felt from the characters, like I was watching rather than experiencing through them. They were likeable, and I could root for them, but I didn’t really know them. I was told what they were like more than shown—Rhun was good, Arthur was pointy, and Mairwen was bold. I was also kind of told what they felt for each other, but it was vague and confusing, so I didn’t truly feel or understand the connections between them. (Although Rhun and Arthur seemed to have the most passionate feelings for each other, with a nice side of angst. I like angst.)

It was also hard to keep track of whose POV I was in. All were third-person and sounded the same, and context rarely helped since the characters were often together. There also seemed to be some head-hopping or omniscience.

Another related issue I had, which might not bother other people at all, was the town in general. I thought the story would be about an isolated place where they gave sacrifices because they had to, because it was all they knew, because there was no rest of the world for them to turn to if anything bad happened. Instead, anyone could leave at any time, get supplies, etc. And when something was wrong with their bargain, they all just seemed mildly concerned. The story would’ve worked better for me had they been isolated and/or had the townspeople’s fear and desperation (if that’s even how they felt) been explored more.

Last but not least… The non-binary character was one thing that drew me in, but I’m not sure he was actually non-binary. Arthur was raised as a girl for the first seven years of his life. But after that he never referred to himself as anything other than a boy, even though he did have a lot of inner struggles and mentioned that he sometimes missed being a girl. That being said, I found this to be the most thought-provoking aspect of the book. It made me think about just how much of gender is a social construct and how much it affects us because Arthur was happy as a girl until he was told otherwise. If everyone were raised as a different gender, how many people would feel perfectly content that way? Obviously not everyone, but maybe some would. Or what if we didn’t raise kids with gender at all? Or what if we had no roles or expectations associated with gender? I like that this book got me pondering.

Overall, this book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and the distance from the characters made it hard for me to connect with them, but I still enjoyed the mysterious plot and the otherworldly forest magic, and I think plenty of readers will like this one, especially those who like witchy stuff.


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    1. Kristen Burns

      It definitely does since I’m a character person :-/ But the forest magic was super cool! And yep, at least two of the MCs were bi/pan and the one possibly enby!

  1. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

    I’m intrigued by this book, and I think I’ve read an entire range of reviews from “best book I’ve ever read” to “meh”, so I guess it either works or it doesn’t. The gender issue sounds fascinating, so that alone would make me want to read it.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve seen soooo many people talk about how much they LOVE this book and how it’s their fave of the year, so I think I’m in the minority. But yeah I was definitely intrigued by the gender issues and enjoyed that aspect.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It does seem like that’s been happening a lot, doesn’t it? Although, in this case, it might’ve been the reviews more than the blurb that gave me the wrong expectations.

  2. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    First, I love that you describe the forest setting as very nature-y and animal-y. Priceless. ๐Ÿ™‚
    The issues with POV would be such a distraction for me. And wondering which POV I was reading would constantly pull me out of the story. I find it interesting that you said Arthur was happy as a girl until he was told otherwise. Wow. Thatโ€™s something to think about.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Hahaha, well the magic itself and the supernatural things were very nature-y and animal-y too ๐Ÿ˜›

      Yeah, the POV issues were a bit distracting.

      Right? That really did make me think.

  3. Lola

    Too bad this one wasn’t quite what you expected, but the premise sure sounds like an unique one. The forest part does sound neat. That’s a shame you felt distanced form the characters, it can be difficult to really get into the book when that’s the case. From the set-up I also automatically assumed the town would be more isolated, or maybe that’s because the set-up would work well with an isolated town?

    The whole non binary thing does sound interesting, even tough it could’ve been explored a bit more. But it sure is interesting to ponder those question about gender and how much is due to what we’re thought.

    Oh you’re also reading Three Mages and a Margarita, I am also reading that one at the moment :).

    1. Kristen Burns

      The forest was super cool. But right? I really feel like it would’ve worked better had they been more isolated. They were somewhat isolated by location, but they weren’t completely cut-off.

      It really is interesting to think about how much gender affects us.

      I just finished Three Mages yesterday! Looking forward to seeing your thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    I meant to read this earlier, but just never did get around to it. I’ve definitely seen a lot of mixed reviews though. I HATE it when there are multiple POVs and they’re hard to keep separate. I had the same issue with Spinning Silver. I’m glad you were at least able to enjoy the uniqueness. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I had high hopes for this book after the pretty cover so it sucks it wasn’t what you expected. I do think a lot of your issues with the book would bother me too. You want a distinct personality for each MC in a book and the fact you often got confused with what perspective you were reading from would be a major issue because I get confused at multiple POV anyway, I need to know which perspective I’m reading from at least. I have to say, head hopping never used to bother me as a thing in books (or I never noticed it before) but ever since I saw you mention it somewhere it really stands out and rubs me all kinds of wrong. I can keep on reading but who knew it happened so often in books? Surely someone should stop authors from doing this. Stick to one perspective and clearly mark when POV changes!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, the POV thing was hard for me. Oh no! I’m ruining books for you! Haha I feel kinda bad now. It’s such a major pet peeve of mine though because it throws me out of the story every time, so I can’t help but mention it since it does impact my reading experience. But seriously, idk why editors aren’t pointing it out? Or why authors aren’t listening??

  6. verushka

    That’s a promising, unique blurb. I’m sorry it didn’t quite meet your expectations ๐Ÿ™ (though you raise some interesting questions about Arthur — if a book is thought provoking, it’s a plus in that way)

  7. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    That’s a bummer about feeling distanced from the characters. I usually need to feel a connection to characters to really into a book. I still want to read this one because it does sound interesting, but I’ll keep this in mind going in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Strange Grace.

  8. Gayathri

    I hate it when the characters are not relatable but likeable. And telling instead showing is a great way to turn me off a book. I have been hearing so much about this book as well, and I am sorry it didn’t work out for you.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I really like to be able to connect with the characters more. I’ve seen so many great reviews, I feel like the odd one out here! Thanks, I guess we can’t love every book!

  9. imyril

    Oh, that sounds a bit disappointing! I love Tessa Gratton’s work on Tremontaine, but I ended up DNFing The Queens of Innis Lear (like Strange Grace, I loved the concept – fantasy King Lear) for much the same reason you describe being dissatisfied with Strange Grace – the characters. Hohum. I was really intrigued by Strange Grace, but now… less so ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you for the heads-up!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I haven’t read any of her other books. Seems she’s a hit-or-miss author for you. But if you had that same problem with another of her books, then idk, maybe this one wouldn’t be quite right for you either, although I’ve seen a lot of great reviews for this one, so who knows? Thanks!

  10. Barb (boxermommyreads)

    Great thoughts. I’m very much a lover of witchy things and have been waiting for this one. I still think I’ll pick it up but after reading your review, will probably lower my expectations some. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! You should definitely still try it if you’re interested. I’ve seen a ton of rave reviews for this one. But it never hurts to go into a book with the tempered expectations ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Hmmm now I am really starting to wonder if this is something I need in my life… Because I usually don’t do well with books where I cannot connect to characters, and that definitely seems like the case here. And if I am being perfectly honest, I don’t know how much I care about witches in general? Depends on how it’s handled I guess. Maybe I will start it and see how it goes? But expectations are lowered for sure!

    Also- I LOVE your little box with book info, that is so clever! AND how were we never Goodreads friends before!? I went to like your review and BAM, not friends!? Seemed wrong, so I fixed it ๐Ÿ˜€ Fabulous review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like it never hurts to lower your expectations about a book lol. Idk, a lot of people loved this one! So who knows, it could go either way for you ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks! Sometimes I wonder if I should just get rid of that little box since idk if anyone uses it, but then I remember that *I* use it sometimes, so I keep it lol. Yay GR friends! Thanks!

  12. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    “Arthur was pointy” I don’t know why I just giggled reading that! And I’m loving the range of reviews for this one! It’s so interesting to see how so many people connected with the character while others couldn’t. And you make a great point with the townspeople’s reactions. They did kind of feel like those background props in plays–like, they were there but not *really* there. Lovely review! <3

    1. Kristen Burns

      That was the word they used to describe him like twenty times lol. I’ve seen a range of reviews too, although I’ve mostly seen people loving it, which is great! I can’t remember if I commented, but I did read your review ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!

  13. Aimee (Aimee, Always)

    I’m reading this one now, and so far I have to agree with your thoughts! The relationships between the characters are just SUPER confusing, and I have no idea if I should even be rooting for any of them!? It’s just really odd and all-over the place. But the story’s definitely super rich and I am in love with it!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I honestly still don’t understand what Mairwen and Arthur felt about each other. The relationships did feel very all over the place. But yes, rich is a great word to describe the story!

  14. Olivia Roach

    Hmm, it sounds like this book wasn’t quite what you expected to get when reading it at all. I actually just came from reading another review of this one and they really liked the love in it, but it doesn’t seem like it was something that really struct you because of the distance to the character. But I really am intrigued by the thoughts you had relating to Arthur and I agree, it’s the thing that strikes me most about the book from your review. Definitely some food for thought…

    1. Kristen Burns

      No, it wasn’t really. But I know a lot of people loved it. I just didn’t understand the relationships among the characters. Glad I’m not the only one who finds Arthur’s story thought-provoking!