Thursday, 24 December 2015

My Favourite Books of 2015 #7: 'The Gracekeepers' by Kirsty Logan

I'm counting down my top 10 favourite books of 2015 and it'll probably be a surprise to me as well what finds itself at number 1 by the end of the year. For this list I'm not restricting myself to books that came out this year, although many of the ones featured on this list will probably have. Rather, I'm hoping that by the 31st I've been able to show you what has happened in my life, book-wise, the last twelve months!  I've had a variety of genres so far, but this'll be the first proper Fantasy entry to the list.

My #7 is: The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

I knew I wanted to read this book from the moment I read the blurb. Then it was all about praying that I'd be approved on Netgalley and then in June this year I finally got my shot and just absolutely fell in love. Logan's word in The Gracekeepers is a fascinating one and her characters are so rich and complex. The only flaw of this novel was that it ended so soon. Also, that cover... to die for.

Pub. Date: 23/04/2015
Publisher: Random House UK/ Harvill Secker

The magical story of a floating circus and two young women in search of a home. 
The sea has flooded the earth. North lives on a circus boat, floating between the scattered islands that remain. She dances with her beloved bear, while the rest of the crew trade dazzling and death-defying feats for food from the islanders. However, North has a secret that could capsize her life with the circus.
Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean, with only the birds and the fish for company. As penance for a terrible mistake, she works as a gracekeeper, tending the graves of those who die at sea. What drove her from home is also what pulls her towards North.
When a storm creates a chance meeting between the two girls, their worlds change. They are magnetically drawn to one another, and the promise of a new life. But the waters are treacherous, and the tide is against them.
From my review:

The Gracekeepers feels like a fairy tale, which is a major compliment, considering my passion for fairy tales, myths and legends. This category of literature exists through the sharing of strong story elements and through the passing down of these elements to the next generation of story-tellers. In a different blurb for this novel, it is said that Logan was inspired by Scottish myths and legends such as The Isle of Pabaidh and The Dracae. As mentioned above, the world building in this novel is interesting and that is definitely down to Logan's willingness to be inspired by myths. You see, in mythology and legend the world is recognizable. It is farmers farming, hills rolling and kings ruling.What is extraordinary are the people: it is them who make these stories fascinating and move the plot forward. They surprise you by being secretly magic or by being smarter than you expected.  The Gracekeepers seems to work along similar lines. The characters populating Logan's world are incredibly interesting and their actions make her world come alive. It is Callanish's respect for her role and its traditions that makes it interesting and makes it feel real, It is a sign of great characterization, but it also means that Logan's whole world is slightly clouded. The outlines are visible but not a lot is clear.
One of the things I loved about this story was that it centred around two female characters. Often, if a narrative is shared between two characters, it tends to be a man and a woman, or two men. Callanish and North have two very different stories that yet intertwine and together they cover a lot of different female roles. One of my literary pet peeves are characters restricted to a single role, to being "just a father", "just a mother" or "just the gay best friend". People are always different things to different people. To some North is a colleague , to others a friend and to a few a nuisance. She was someone's daughter, she will be someone's lover and someone's mother. The same goes for Callanish. They are strong female characters. Not stereotypical ones who wield guns, who get into fights and who always speak up. Callanish and North work with the hands they have been dealt by life and don't complain. They work hard and take responsibility for their actions. They make choices and stick with them and in the end, they are simply trying to survive in their world. Callanish and North are surrounded by a cast of incredibly interesting side-characters, some of which are granted their own chapters as well. The variety of characters and the subtle character development is what makes The Gracekeepers captivating. These characters all have a twist to them, especially those of the circus.
If you like the sound of it, read the rest of my review and then get your own copy!

Does The Gracekeepers sound like your kind of book? How do you feel about world-building?

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