Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Gracekeepers

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.

This book came to me with high recommendation and I absolutely loved it!

This book was told in dual narrative with North and Callanish having alternate chapters. The whole concept of a Gracekeeper was fascinating and it was really interesting reading about the various faiths in the world. The sections on the circus boat were just fun!

North’s backstory, the events that led to them being in the circus was really interesting and I love getting backstory for main characters, even just a teeny sentence will do, this really helped to make North feel like a well rounded character. Callanish’s backstory was a slower reveal but there were hints, I was happy to wait for it though. Knowing the history of both of the main characters really explained their actions and attitudes. There were some points where I didn’t agree with their decisions but knowing their pasts helped to explain why those choices were made and they made sense for the characters.

I absolutely adored the circus performers, there were so many characters but it was really easy to remember who was who-the characters were sort of grouped e.g. the clowns. Clowns terrify me in real life but in this book they were so funny and entertaining and not a red nose or big shoe in sight!

I absolutely adored The Bear. He was adorable and lovely and so gentle and protective.

The world building was excellent, I don’t think I’ve read many books set in a world that has become partially submerged. I really enjoyed the tension between the landlockers and the damplings which felt realistic. The author really described the environment so well, it was a world I’d be happy to read more about. I was really intrigued by Callanish’s home island and the contrast of the islanders’ beliefs.

I listened to this story via audiobook (on loan from my local library) and I listened to it in the various Starbucks of Aberdeen- as a side note, this book paired very well with a soy gingerbread latte because the festive drinks are back and I’m here for it! The author narrated the book which was a really nice touch. I really like when authors narrate their own novels and it’s always nice hearing a Scottish narration.

This book was gloriously whimsical and utterly heartwarming but also included important topics like belonging and family. This book had such strong found family vibes which is something that I’ve recently learned that I love! This was like a beautiful fairytale and I just loved it. I had extra love for this book because of the many, many recommendations that I’d received. Thanks friends, I loved it!

If you enjoy fantasy and whimsy and strong female leads, you may love this book too.