When the needs of the many require the deaths of a few, three friends defy tradition.
Idyllic, isolated Three Graces has enjoyed good health and harvests...in exchange for sending their “best boy” into the Devil’s Forest every 7 years. Few survive to return; all are venerated as saints. Now the sacrifice is coming due too early, and bighearted 17-year-old Rhun Sayer is favored as the saint while 17-year-old Arthur Couch (initially raised by his mother as a girl in an effort to protect him from being chosen) insists on proving his masculinity. But 16-year-old witch’s daughter Mairwin Grace is determined to keep her friends alive. Rather than a tortured love triangle, Gratton (The Queens of Innis Lear, 2018, etc.) treats their evolving, polyamorous relationship sincerely and sensitively. The fantastical elements are described in gorgeous and grotesque detail, their vividness overcoming the generic setting—a vaguely medieval northern European enclave peopled primarily by white citizens (such as blond Arthur and brunette Mairwin), with some who are brown-skinned with curling black hair (Rhun and his mother, a refugee). Told in present tense with the hypnotic cadence of fairy tales and Norse sagas, muddled by amnesia, and illuminated by flashbacks, the elaborately nonlinear narrative obscures a relatively thin plot. Although action-packed, violent, and macabre, this is ultimately a love story.
Horrifying, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, a lush fairy tale rooted in a moral quandary. (Fantasy. 14-adult)