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The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

“In the county, there’s nothing more dangerous than a woman who speaks her mind. That’s what happened to Eve, you know, why we were cast out from heaven. We’re dangerous creatures. Full of devil charms. If given the opportunity, we will use our magic to lure men to sin, to evil, to destruction.” My eyes are getting heavy, too heavy to roll in a dramatic fashion. “That’s why they send us here.” “To rid yourself of your magic,” he says. “No,” I whisper as I drift off to sleep. “To break us.”

As I started reading The Grace Year, I had no idea what to expect. In all honesty my expectations were blown away right as the plot thickened. A patriarchal society, magical girls and a government who pays to have their own daughter killed and a young girl who doesn't believe in it all ready to put this so called Grace Year behind. Tierney James is like no other girl in the small county of Garner. As she is sent to her Grace Year she promises to herself and her family to come out alive, she is not prepared to unleash the secrets of a destructive and patriarchal society.

The Grace Year has a lot of meaning behind the words of Kim Liggett, on the surface there's a story of a girl who is misunderstood and judged for not wanting to get married and not desired to uphold community standards. While others dream to wed, Tierney prefers to have a long life working in the fields. However, the men in her life won't allow that. As her Grace Year begins and so does the veiling ceremony (a special event where the girls get veiled to their proposed husband), her life takes a turn as her best friend and future governor of the county veils her promising a life as a wife. Everything she dreaded.

With this she sets out into her Grace Year a long with 30 or so other girls of her community. As the town believes that girls have power and magic powerful enough to lure men into doing things they don't want to do, they are sent out into the woods to exorcise this magic out of their systems. When all is done in a years time they come back to the county ready for a life as a wife or as a worker. However, not everyone comes back. And as no girl ever speaks about the Grace Year there is no knowing what really occurs, only that dangerous poachers lure the woods trying to kill and mutilate these magical girls.

Tierney feels ready to storm off poachers, however soon enough she realizes not everything is as it seems and that the real danger comes from the girls within not the men outside the thick walls of their encampment.

A strong novel of womanhood, love and resilience this story is really unlike any I have ever read before. Our main character is delightful to read as she uncovers lie after lie and ends up falling in love with a poacher. With this she starts learning all the secrets her society has build up to reprimand girls and keep them out of power, allowing men to be the all powerful.

The love story is short yet holds so much meaning. The same goes for the relationship between the girls in the encampment. In a more deeper meaning, showing the division that sometimes exists between women even in modern times causing them to not be equals to men. As they rage in jealousy and fight against each other, it shows the reality of a humanity that shouldn't be.

The ending is also powerful, an open ending like no other. Leaving you in a way with a ton of unanswered questions. However, I think that was the point. As Liggett discusses one of societies biggest concerns of women equality, it is also up to the reader to realize the importance of this issue and with this finishing of the story with questions. Because the issue of women inequality hasn't been solved.

Amazing, 100% recommended.

--- 4.5 stars ---