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4.0 out of 5 starsI’m pretty impressed that it still stands out to me after ...
Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2017
This was the very first book I read in 2016. I’m pretty impressed that it still stands out to me after this incredibly long year! I was running around Scotland when I spotted this - I still have yet to spot it in the States, although I know it’s here. The cover immediately drew my eye, because it’s just downright gorgeous. It was being toted as Scotland’s author pick of the month or year or season or something, because Logan spun her tale around elements of Scottish fairy tales and folklore. Not only that, but the description promised circuses on ships and mermaids and two strong lady protags. How can I say no? So I quickly decided it was a necessary souvenir and buddy-read it with a friend of mine. It did not disappoint. The dark whimsy that Logan crafted into her world left me wanting to know more about the characters and the lands they live on (or around). Definitely worth picking up. Even though the cover difference between US and UK is ASTOUNDING…pick it up wherever you are
This is a really unusual book--if you liked Night Circus or Station Eleven, you'll enjoy Gracekeepers. Set in a future world that is divided between "landlockers" (living on land) and "damplings" (floating on the sea), the story centers on two well-drawn characters who bridge the two worlds. North is part of a floating circus who performs with beloved bear. Callanish is a "gracekeeper" who lives on an island by herself and performs ritual burials. Logan brings each of their environments alive with terrific description and captures the essential loneliness that has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives. Part myth, dystopia, and fairytale, this makes for a great read.
I heard about this book from a friend who heard about it on NPR. Almost from the first scene, I felt like I knew what was going to come next. The details were unique (and interesting), but the plot was definitely predictable.
The book is well written, and well edited. The story kept me engaged enough to finish it... but there were enough unanswered questions remaining that, ultimately, I was unsatisfied.
I can't say it was a "bad" book -- but it's not one I'll be pushing friends to read.
Reviewed in the United States on September 15, 2017
This book was just too disjointed for me. It hopped from character to character without developing any real depth until almost the very end of the story. Although I found this frustrating, the story itself is unique.
Lovely story . Filled with dreams of those who have nothing. A traveling circus navigating a waterworld of superstitions, lies and family ties. Quick character development and crisscrossing storylines. I was smiling when I finished.
4.0 out of 5 starsAn uncomfortable dystopian future.
Reviewed in the United States on July 13, 2015
This dystopian novel takes place in a very altered future world, where inhabitants are either a land or a sea persons, with no middle ground allowed. Hovering over everything is a vague military presence and a predictable autocratic religious cult. I found some elements very imaginative and was also interested in how the 'silkie' tradition was woven into the work. The narrative pacing was sluggish at times, but the strangeness of the envisioned world kept me reading.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 18, 2016
A travelling circus, a girl North and her dancing bear, a gracekeeper Callanish, some kind of graveyard custodian in a waterlogged world in the middle of the ocean, hiding her hands and feet in gloves and slippers, make for an interesting cast and setting for a debut novel.
There's something timeless yet strangely unsettling about this old-new world where the privileged minority who live on the sparse remains of land, called the Landlockers, lord it over the damplings, those who are set adrift in boats and vessels. But the novelty soon wears off when the outlandish layers are peeled away with North and Callanish in their parallel narratives.
Logan seems rather absorbed in the physical oddities of her characters, so much so that there is very little to be found and developed as the story progresses. Characters come on and fade away, and they are memorable for the caricaturish touches that make the work feel like a large picture book with page upon page of garish drawings. As central characters, Callanish does seem to be given a more convincing (if ambiguous) motivation and quest in the story. North's strong attachment to her bear is less convincing, and her story is given some colour by an obvious villain, Avalon, another cardboard-thin character, whose wily intentions can be spotted a mile away.
Perhaps Logan meant this as a postmodern fairytale, and therefore the stock characters are intentional, but nonetheless I felt the effect was a somewhat colourful show with the requisite pyrotechnics that sorely lacked a centre.
4.0 out of 5 starsBeautiful written, full of vivid and interesting characters
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 27, 2016
The GraceKeepers is the debut novel of Kirsty Logan and tells the story of North and Callanish, two girls living in a dystopian universe where water has covered most of the land and the people are divided by Landlockers (Callanish) and Damplings (North).
It was a quick read which I very much enjoyed. The writing was vivid and although dystopian the world was well crafted and beautiful, with many interesting and unique characters.
I went into this book with preconceived ideas as I do with pretty much all books I read… I very rarely read a blurb as many books I read are suggested to me or picked up purely for a cover or some reason I forgot – this one was a cover or something pick.
There are a lot of ideas in this book, a lot to do with gender roles and certainly many interesting topics for discussion but I mostly enjoyed the relationship between North and her bear, oh and the Idea of the world underwater and the evolution of Humans into sea creatures with Gills and webbed fingers… This isn’t a new idea but one which never grows old!
I would of loved to give this book a 5 star and may change my review at some point but I did have a few bug bears … some unanswered questions and minor irritations which I think did distract me at various times.
Overall a brilliant read which I very much recommend!
4.0 out of 5 starsVivid and enjoyable, an original fantasy
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 9, 2018
I knew I had to read this book when I saw a billboard advertising it a few weeks before its release. I saw it going to work and it pulled my attention. I must have stood in front of it for at least ten minutes thinking I need to read this book. I bought the book and never got around to reading it until now. I’ve read other books by the author. I guess I’m a fickle book-lover. I really enjoyed The Gracekeepers but it wasn’t quite as spectacular as I imagined when I stood in front of that billboard, awe struck. The prose is lush and vivid. I thought the characters were excellent. The Gracekeepers offers something an unusual and original Fantasy novel. I enjoyed the book a lot but just didn’t quite love it.
4.0 out of 5 stars4&1/2 Stars - Lyrical and lovely
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 15, 2015
A very nearly perfect novel.
Logan’s prose is lyrical and evocative. She smoothly reels us into a water-soaked world, where stepping on land is a privilege that few can afford. The paths of our characters cross on a pivotal night in their early lives, before the main events of the story begin. North – a Dampling – has lived her whole life at sea and loathes stepping on land, whereas Callanish – a Clam – was born into a privileged landed family but now lives the secluded life of a Gracekeeper tending Dampling graves. I think you can guess from this brief description, but one of the best aspects of Logan’s prose is her world-building and she has some wonderful names for things, ‘Dampling’ being a prime example. I love that she doesn’t fully explain things. We move through the world with only a partial view of it – enough to follow North and Callanish, but without lots of exposition. That said I would have liked a little more explanation around one subject in particular, related to North’s secret.
Logan deftly develops the world’s own unique prejudices and a complicated caste system, not just land vs. water but various subdivisions in both. Our two protagonists exist in a strange borderland between the safety of the islands and the uncertainty of the sea. North works for a travelling (should that be sailing?) circus, performing extraordinary feats with her dancing bear, stepping on land only to perform for the islanders who are both fascinated and horrified by them. Callanish, in her position of Gracekeeper, has a tiny island of her own, but this is attached to the watery graves of the Damplings which she tends.
I adore Logan’s circus, the chaos wrought by the clowns, the mysterious rituals of the beauties, the way it manages to be both political and subversive, enthralling and eerie. The ambiguity of gender and the blurring of lines represented by the circus is something which the circus-folk play up or down depending on their audience. It’s also something intrinsic within the circus-folk who are every bit as intriguing as our main characters.
Now, as to why it is not quite perfect. The ending is largely to blame for this I think, as I felt like it was building towards something more and it seemed to be over very quickly. I had to re-read it a couple of times so that I knew what was going on. I got sucked into the story very easily but the pace doesn’t quite keep up. That’s not quite right, less pace and more…intrigue I suppose. North and Callanish are both girls with secrets, neither of which I’m going to reveal here. Needless to say there are two that we find out early on and North’s in particular is brilliant. However, it is the second of Callanish’s secrets that disappointed me a bit. This is largely my own fault as I thought it was something different and was disappointed when it wasn’t.
Despite this it is still very, very nearly perfect. Not just in story, but in design – its very rare that you see a book that is this beautiful under the book jacket (don’t peak! Keep the surprise until the end).
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 23, 2021
This was a Book Club choice which I did not think I would enjoy. I was wrong! Without going into detail and spoiling the plot, some of the scenes are almost half-imagined and could be deemed disturbing but somehow they seem inevitable to allow the new world to go forward. I found it a gripping read which made me stretch my imagination beyond the Earth as we know it now. I recommend The Gracekeepers as well worth a read. Enjoy!