Author: Tessa Gratton
Genre: YA Fantasy
”Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest. Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.Goodreads Synopsis
Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.”
The village Three Graces is a place that does not suffer any lasting hardships due to the deal a witch from the Grace family made with the devil generations ago. Illnesses and wounds disappears over a night, crops thrives due to a perfect climate and all children are born without complications. All this for the cost of a young man every seventh year running into the devil’s forest. To do this run is considered an honour and no boy is forced to brave the forest agains his will. Live or die, they will do what they can to protect their home.
But when crops fail, a woman goes into labour early and the Slaughter Moon rices again only after 4 years of peace, the villages realises that there’s something wrong with the bargain. The villages prepare for the ceremony to select the boy who will do the run, but the Grace witch Mairwen wants to go to the forest to find what has gone wrong to fix it. And that quest for truth is what this story will focus on.
We’ll follow Mair, Rhun and Arthur as our main POVs. They are a very close group of friends and all have a personal stake in this particular run. The boys are both old enough to run, with Rhun being the one most likely to be chosen. But have they not been cheated off three years of life together? And why has the bargain failed?
Three Graces is very isolated, even though people may come and go. Some have left because they find the deal with the devil morally incorrect, such as the priests. Others because they can’t bear the thought of loosing their sons as a sacrifice. But on a whole people are born and die there. So this is a very close-knit community where everyone knows everyone and their business. Which we all know can be a good and a bad thing.
The Grace witches that still lives does have some magic in the forms of binding and weaving material combined with prayers. Also healing with herbs etc, those stuff we know and love witches for.
Mair is a curious girl with an intense interest for what could be considered the macabre. As a witch she’s more interested in the magic connected to bones than herbs, and has always felt a strong calling towards the devil’s forest.
Arthur is hot headed and prickly. He always tries to act as ”manly” as possible due to events from his childhood making him the object of ridicule from the villages men.
Rhun is pure and noble and everyone is sure he is destined to run run the devil’s forest when he’s old enough. And he thinks of this as the highest honour, because what could be more worth dying for than the safety of the ones he love.
On a side note; This book shows off a variation of romantic love that most authors probably won’t touch. And that is a polyamorous romance, which I enjoyed to read about immensely! It showed off such an open, accepting and unbreakable bond between the main characters. If you’re not open to reading about non-conventional relationships with an open mind, then I’d advise you to stay clear of this book. Or you’re going to be upset or uncomfortable.
Almost lyrical at times, and it’s a beautiful thing! Slow paced but filled with emotion and inner struggles all set to the tunes of brewing horror. The pace does speed up at the right times to make some events more thrilling, with huge success.
There’s a part of the book that’s called ”The Vigil” that is especially well written. It changes POV’s a lot, only gives you a few flashes of what the characters are experiencing and without much context so I did not really know what was going on. Which was the point. This was so creepy, tense and exciting, and is honestly one of the greatest horror writing I’ve ever read! And I’ll always remember the book for it. 16 pages of perfection!
This was intense! There’s so much tension and mystery to the story which a puzzle solver like me can’t get enough of. And combined with the complexity of our main characters relationship makes it hard to put the book down.
This was a great ride and the characters were interesting, but I fear they did not make a great impact on me. And some of the details of the story are already fading from memory. But the things that did make an impact, (writing, plot and the unique elements) will probably one day prompt me to read it again. And this makes the book worthy of 4,5 stars.
The fantastic writing and unique story in both Strange Grace and the Queens of Innis Lear has made Tessa Gratton an author who’s books I will auto-buy instantly.