Blogging for Books: The Gracekeepers

It’s not a contest, but so far this book has been the best of the ones I’ve received from the Blogging for Books program.

From the Penguin/Random House official description: “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.”


My Take: The Gracekeepers is an exquisite debut novel from Scottish writer Kirsty Logan. Logan imagines a world where the land is scarce and valuable. “Landlockers,” are those who are allowed to live on the land and the “Damplings” live on boats and travel from archipelago to archipelago. The story is told in a variety of different voices but the two main characters are Callanish and North. Callanish is a Landlocker who has left her home island to tend a Graceyard- an at sea graveyard. Callanish performs a ritual for passing boats with deceased and tends to the graces- birds bred to be weak and shortlived to mark the passage of grief. North is a Dampling circus performer on the circus boat Excalibur. North is a bear dancer, which is a big draw for the circus as not many bears are left in the world.

Logan’s world-building is near perfect. There’s not a lot of “telling” but through details about distance traveled, descriptions of the achipelagos, and discussion of the revival ships and the other types of boats you gain a complete picture of the world inhabited by our characters.

North and Callanish are brought together by death but they bond through something much deeper. While I’m not typically a “shipper” I was definitely hoping for a Korrasami-esque ending for these two. Did I get it? I’m not telling, you’ll have to read and find out!

Even the most “bit” players are fleshed out into full characters with motivations and feelings. I must admit ignorance to much of Scottish folklore, so I’m sure I missed a lot of references, but it didn’t take away from the magical feel of the entire book.

“‘Some  islands don’t even let damplings come above the blackshore. If they want to perform, they can do it in the daytime with waves lapping at their ankles like they’re meant. Those people belong in the water. They’re dirtying the land.’ But Callanish knew that would never work. The circus would not look good in the bland, bright day: its colors would dage against the clouds, spitty rain would threaten the fire-breather, the acrobats’ sodden feet would make them shiver so much they missed their catches. What would be the point of an imperfect circus?” [pg 3].

Fortunately, The Gracekeepers is a perfect circus.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review


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