Intelligent, haunting and mesmerizing emotional thriller
I loved this book so much. I wanted to stop at a few points and discuss with someone but I didn’t have anyone reading it with me or a book club to discuss it with. There is just so much worth talking about. I am feeling so much and out this book right now. I just saw that it is being made into a movie and I already can’t wait. I was totally engrossed throughout the entire book and it surprised me more often than not. Almost every time I expected something to happen, something completely unexpected happened instead.
It starts out with the main character Tierney who is about to enter her Grace Year. The county is set up with extremely misogynistic laws. They say that girls have magic in their sixteenth year and that they are dangerous so they send all the girls away to a separate colony in the woods for a year, and the girls from the previous year return on the same day as the new girls leave.
Before leaving they have a ceremony where the eligible men and 16 year old boys choose from the girls who they want to marry and they give veils to the fathers of their choice, each father brings the veil home to his daughter. At the ceremony the boy lifts the veil and the girl sees who the boy who she will marry. The girls not chosen will either be sent to the fields or put to service for the remainder of their lives. Tierney isn’t like other girls, she doesn’t long to get a vail and get married, she actually wants to work in the fields. She feels being married is tantamount to being owned.
One strange part of the story is the girls that go away, they are at a colony-like place surrounded by walls and woods and there are poachers outside the walls. So if any of the girls stray from the path on the way there, try to escape while they are there or get banished by the rest of the girls for some reason, are almost immediately caught by the poachers. They skin the girls alive and put all of their organs and parts into jars to be sold on the black market. The poachers won’t come into the colony for fear of being cursed by the magic.
The poachers are men from the outskirts of the county. They are generally the sons of prostitutes. People (women or girls) from the county can get banned to the outskirts as punishment. Young girls are punished if their sisters go missing during their Grace year and their bodies are not accounted for by the poachers. Punishments are harsh, obviously and doled out by the council.
In fact, the only time magic comes up is when it’s convenient for them. Like when Mrs. Pinter’s husband died, Mr. Coffey suddenly accused his wife of twenty-five years of secretly harboring her magic and levitating in her sleep. Mrs. Coffey was as meek and mild as they come—hardly the levitating sort—but she was cast out. No questions asked. And surprise, surprise, Mr. Coffey married Mrs. Pinter the following day.
But if I ever made such an accusation, or if I came back from my grace year unbroken, I would be sent to the outskirts to live among the prostitutes.
What happens during Tierney’s Grace Year is quite a revelation. I couldn’t figure out for the longest time if the magic was real or not. Also we know that in certain ways Tierney was more prepared for the year than many of her female counterparts, because she was a tomboy and worked with her father as well as spent a lot of time in the woods with Michael, but she had so much going against her. Kiersten was the leader of the girls and she makes an awesome villain. She was evil from the beginning when she teased Tierney saying she would “pray for her to get a vail”.
During the this time, I think I felt everything Tierney was feeling. The book was so well written. The characters all came alive, I could see the camp, the well, the cots, the tree it was all so vivid. I really can’t wait for it to be brought to life in movie form. I don’t like to give away any spoilers past the beginning 10-20% of the book, so I won’t go into more, but to say that Tierney finds a lot of truth about herself, her family, and her society as she is out there. It is a true physical and emotional journey and it’s awesome!
That to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC In exchange for an honest review.