As a promiscuous reader, I declare my love for a book every new moon. But every now and again, I become so smitten with a novel that I can think of nothing else. That’s how I’ve been with The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan ever since I finished it. Really though, I knew I would fall hard for the book as soon as the folks at Crown Publishing told me about it. The novel has everything I wanted in a book: beautiful writing; an original dystopian world; rich, fully developed female characters; and a bit of magic.
If you’re not into dystopian fiction, don’t let the D-word turn you off.
Set a world where most of the planet is covered in water and land is at a premium, its people are divided between the landlockers and the damplings. The landlockers are grounded in permanence on their small islands, which makes them feel superior to the folks that float from island to island to find works. The novel alternates between the a dampling North and Callanish, who has her feet in both worlds.
Callanish lives in between the world of damp and dry in her self-imposed role as a gracekeeper, a person who administers shoreside burials. On her lonely island of purgatory, she ushers the dead into the resting place deep into the ocean, where her only companions are the birds representing the dead she buries. Part of a traveling circus, North has grown up on the sea. Her parents, who died when she was young, were also circus performers. The sea is in her blood, but the Ring Master has chosen her to become his daughter-in-law and purchase his family’s return to landlocker status.
A big storm is brewing, both meteorologically and socially, that will change these women’s lonely lives forever. Can they wade through their sadness to open their souls to the possibilities of a better future where the world isn’t divided into wet and dry?
The Gracekeepers feels like a fairy tale, which is not surprising as Logan was inspired by Scottish myths and fairy tales. Its characters’ desolation seeps through, but Callanish and North carry on because they know hope is on the horizon. There’s no knight in shining armor coming to rescue them. They must find solace in their own way.
Logan builds a watery world that hints at a deep history and tradition. I can easily imagine Callanish’ remote island and North’s floating home. Not many authors can create a well-developed fictional world in just one book, but Logan nailed it.
Make sure you pick up Kirsty Logan’s debut novel The Gracekeepers. I think it’ll stick with you for a long time, just like it will with me.