BookBrowse Reviews The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Gracekeepers

by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan X
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2015, 320 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright
Buy This Book

About this Book



A richly detailed fantasy world comes alive in this debut which features two protagonists whose life paths intersect in unusual ways.

Kirsty Logan's The Gracekeepers is an original and lyrical debut novel set in a watery, post-apocalyptic world where the oceans have risen to cover most of the land. Society is divided into the landlockers — those who still live on the few-and-far-between islands, and the damplings — nomads who live on boats in the water. Landlockers and damplings don't like or trust each other much.

The novel follows two separate meandering plot lines and two main characters, both sympathetic young women harboring secrets that connect their fates. Callanish, a landlocker, must hide her webbed hands and feet with gloves and slippers. She is a "Gracekeeper" of the novel's title — her job is to put the dead to rest in the sea. Hers is a solitary and lonely existence where she longs to be forgiven for an untold crime she committed — the reason she's been banished to an isolated life. The second protagonist, North, is a dampling who performs with her bear in a dilapidated floating circus. Unhappily and unwillingly engaged to the ringmaster's vain and arrogant son, North carries her dark secret in her womb. Callanish's and North's stories briefly intersect at several points in the novel, where they feel an attraction to each other but don't understand their connection until close to the end.

The chapters featuring North are full of tension and danger — living and performing with her bear is an ongoing risk, and there is constant strife among the circus crew. Worse, the ringmaster's beautiful but wicked wife hates North and her bear. Callanish's chapters are quieter and more contemplative with her performing the duties as Gracekeeper, preparing a body, dropping it into the sea and placing a cage with a starving bird — a Grace — over the watery grave and then waiting for the bird to die so the grieving family will know when they can stop mourning. While the novel is mostly told in alternating chapters between these two characters, many of the minor characters, circus performers in particular, get their own chapters.

The battalion of circus performers is one of the most entertaining aspects of the story — the artists are colorful, lively and intriguingly complex in their relationships with each other. Here, gender play is given a large role — with brightly dyed hair and flamboyant costumes, women dress as men and men as women.

This fantasy world is carefully delineated with histories, rituals, superstitions, hierarchies and laws for the two divisive societies. While the setting is supposedly post-apocalyptic, it feels more like a Celtic folktale. Since the two female protagonist's destinies are determined more by fate than their own actions, the novel also often feels a bit unmoored.

Deception and deceit are strong themes in this story as are penance and putting the past (and the dead) to rest. The Gracekeeper's job of quantifying the mourning period can also be seen as a metaphor for learning to put a time limit on guilt and blame.

Although the ending is rushed and a bit too convenient to be fully satisfying, I would recommend The Gracekeepers to adult readers and mature teens who enjoy reading fantasies with unusual, richly built settings and unique sympathetic characters.

Reviewed by Sharry Wright

This review first ran in the June 3, 2015 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  A Period of Mourning


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Gracekeepers, try these:

  • The End We Start From jacket

    The End We Start From

    by Megan Hunter

    Published 2018

    About this book

    A searing original, a modern-day parable of rebirth and renewal, of maternal bonds, and the instinct to survive and thrive in the absence of all that's familiar.

  • The Black Witch jacket

    The Black Witch

    by Laurie Forest

    Published 2018

    About this book

    A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.

We have 10 read-alikes for The Gracekeepers, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Hello Beautiful
    Hello Beautiful
    by Ann Napolitano
    Ann Napolitano's much-anticipated Hello Beautiful pulls the reader into a warm, loving familial ...
  • Book Jacket: The West
    The West
    by Naoíse Mac Sweeney
    It's become common for history books and courses to reconsider the emphasis on "Western Civilization...
  • Book Jacket
    A Death in Denmark
    by Amulya Malladi
    Can a mystery novel be informative, intriguing and deeply comforting all at once? Amulya Malladi ...
  • Book Jacket
    Shrines of Gaiety
    by Kate Atkinson
    A few years ago, magazines ran pieces about how the 2020s were likely to be the 1920s all over again...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Paper Names
    by Susie Luo

    A propulsive and sweeping story of family, identity and the American experience—for fans of Jean Kwok and Mary Beth Keane.

  • Book Jacket

    by Costanza Casati

    Madeline Miller's Circe meets Cersei Lannister in this propulsive and richly drawn debut.

Win This Book
Win Such Kindness

30 Copies to Give Away!

Few writers paint three-dimensional characters with such verve and humanism.
Booklist (starred review)



Solve this clue:

S I F A R Day

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.