Summary and book reviews of The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers

by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan X
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
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  • Published:
    May 2015, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright

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About this Book

Book Summary

For readers of The Night Circus and Station Eleven, a lyrical and absorbing debut set in a world covered by water.

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. 

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

CHAPTER 1
North

Behindcurtains, North and her bear waited. Their cue wouldn't come for a while yet. The air back here was still chilly, though the smell of sweat and soil was getting stronger. North never felt comfortable with her feet touching land. She didn't trust its steadiness, its refusal to move or change in the honest way of the sea. The landlockers hadn't given the circus much room on their island--it was small, north-west, not a capital--and behindcurtains was a narrow space.

The damp hem of the curtains huddled around her ankles as she pressed her face to her bear's chest, breathing in his musty smell, hearing the beginnings of a growl within him. She reached her hand to his nose and tapped it, as a warning for him to stay silent. Their show today would be uncomplicated: North and her bear would dance, they would kiss, they would bow to the crowd. Simple. Or as simple as anything can be in a circus.

Out on stage, the rest of the circus folk were performing ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan has conjured a world rich in magic and strangeness. Land is scarce, landlockers revere the few remaining trees, paper—like the ruffles on Red Gold's shirt—is wildly expensive, and damplings must wear bells when they roam the land. What was your favorite image from this book's unique and powerful world? What were your first impressions of the novel?
  2. Both Callanish and North have secrets, both physical and emotional, that they hide from the world. What are they, and how do they affect the choices they make as characters? Why do you think North and Callanish keep their secrets for so long?
  3. In their world, Callanish and North are defined by their respective roles as gracekeeper and ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This fantasy world is carefully delineated with histories, rituals, superstitions, hierarchies and laws for the two divisive societies. Deception and deceit are strong themes in this story as are penance and putting the past (and the dead) to rest. 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).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A beautifully strange debut novel that draws upon folklore of the Scottish west and the isle ... Starkly original ... Haunting, spare, and evocative.

Library Journal

Drawing on Scottish folklore, this haunting debut fantasy is a literary Waterworld that will be in high demand by fans of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven.

Booklist

Starred Review. Lyrical descriptions vividly portray a fantasy world that seems at once futuristic and ancient and evokes the magical tone of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale.

The Independent (UK)

[The Gracekeepers] displays an unexpectedly dizzying range of styles for a debut effort, putting Logan at the top of the “ones to watch” list. It’s always exciting to see such a bold, fresh new talent, and if Logan carries on in this vein, she’ll become a staple of the awards shortlists.

Author Blurb Ursula K. Le Guin
A highly original fantasy, set in a haunting sea-world both familiar and mysterious.

Author Blurb Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants and At the Water's Edge
The Gracekeepers is an enchanting, magical tale, and Kirsty Logan's writing is beautiful.

Author Blurb Camille DeAngelis, author of Bones & All
A gorgeously melancholy novel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale of mermen and mourning birds, ghost cities on the ocean floor and precious, precious soil. I envy the reader who is just now picking it up.

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Beyond the Book

A Period of Mourning

In The Gracekeepers, the Graces are caged birds left to starve to death, floating above the site where a dead person was put to rest in the sea. The death of the bird indicates when the family can stop mourning. Mourning the passing of a loved one is a natural and necessary process that has different rules, guidelines and rituals depending on ones beliefs, offering structure for the grieving. Here are three that you might be less familiar with.

Buddhists believe that the dead are reincarnated, so death is viewed as a change rather than an end. In Tibetan Buddhism, just before and right after death, instructions from the Bardo Thodol, known in the West as The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, are read aloud to provide guidance through the dying ...

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