What’s it all about?:
For readers of The Night Circus and Station Eleven, a lyrical and absorbing debut set in a world covered by water.
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.
What did I think?:
Every fibre of my being has been wanting to pick this book up ever since I saw the gorgeous cover art on the hardback copy and read the synopsis that mentions Scottish myths/fairytales – er, yes please! This book couldn’t be more “me,” and I was delighted when the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium recommended it to me when Chrissi Reads and I had one of their fantastic reading spas. Yet still I put off reading this book and waited AND waited. Sometimes I worry too much that I’m not going to enjoy a novel as much as I think I should and as a result, delay reading it just in case it doesn’t live up to my very lofty expectations. Well, that’s just silly because once I eventually forced myself to pick it up, I adored it. This whimsical, fantastical tale is perfect for any fans of magical realism but above all, the language is so beautifully perfect that it just flows smoothly over you as you read it, making it a very special reading experience.
Primarily, we are following two main characters – North who works as part of a travelling circus on the seas as the mysterious “bear-girl” and Callenish, an ethereal young woman who carries out burials at sea, helping the dead find rest. The story is set in an almost dystopian universe where the seas have taken over the majority of the planet with only small spots of land remaining. The people who live in this world either live on the sea and are referred to as “damplings” or live on the land as “landlockers,” with the two types rarely mixing together except for business purposes.
We follow North and her bear as she nurses a tremendous secret and carries out her duties as a performer (although taking care of her beloved bear is key). The ring-master Jarrow, has plans for North and she must struggle to convince him that she shouldn’t marry his son whilst trying to avoid enraging Jarrow’s pregnant wife, Avalon who has her own axe to grind. Then we see the supreme loneliness of Callenish, banished to an island by herself for a terrible mistake in her past to carry out the role of Gracekeeper with only her own thoughts and the Graces, birds that she uses in the burying ritual, for company. Both young women have more in common than they think and after a freak storm one night, their destinies are brought together with surprising consequences for all.
I don’t want to give anything else away, I just want to assure you of the beauty of this book. If like me, you love your fairy-tale elements and a quirky, one of a kind narrative, you should really seek out this book. I loved the mixture of dystopia with fantasy and thought each character, even the minor players in the tale were developed so particularly that each one could have had a whole story to themselves. Of course, it was the two main ladies who took the biggest piece of my heart but characters like Avalon, the pregnant wife on a mission to get whatever she wants (never mind anyone else!) and the clowns also made for fascinating reading. Furthermore, the author goes into so much detail about certain events, especially in Callenish’s past that I didn’t expect and made me incredibly emotional. Basically, The Gracekeepers isn’t just a re-run of The Night Circus/Station Eleven, it is a wonderful tale that stands on its own, rightly on its own merits and there are delightful surprises around every corner.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan is the fourteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!