I don't think I've ever read such a mess of a story. And I've read some convoluted messes.
So why does the Gracekeepers gets the first place in "Most Convoluted Story" award?
Well... imagine a vaguely distopyan setting in which the Planet has suffered the full consequences of global warming: The level of water has risen, leaving most of Earth (well, I'm guessing here... maybe it's some alien planet instead -_-) fully submerged.
The world is divided between landlockers (people who own land) and damplings (people who live on the sea), and this is where the concept starts falling apart due to its simplicity.
We are told that food is scarce... okay, that makes sense since there's less arable land available, but then we read that the people who live on land don't want anything "to do" with fish...
You're hungry, there's food available, but "hey" I am going to be picky about it... because water is dirty, and people who live in the water are dirty. This is the explanation that is given. Less due to pollution and more due to superstitions.
Regarding Water... the oceans have risen, so what has happened to potable water sources?
Because, logically, (in this setting) that would mean almost no potable water. Strangely that is never mentioned.
Of course when you think that about half ( is it half? What is the percentage? We are never told) of the population that lives on boats, one has to wonder about the quality of the thing.
(I have to mention that the boat Excalibur, with the exception of soldier ships, never ever crosses path with other ships. No boat's jammings, ever. Amazing.)
If you don't hold land, you're seen as less. That is what North is. She is a dampling and she lives and works on an circus.
Enters the Night Circus environment...not. This doesn't have anything to do with that book. Most especially it doesn't have anything to do with the images that Erin Morgenstern created.
Well, in fact there isn't an actual romance between our Gracekeeper and North, the girl that lives in the circus. More like, they're instantly smitten when they do met ( there's hand holding and secrets sharing, because otherwise it would just take too bloody long), but they'll eventually meet again in the end of the book because in the meantime we'll have to be bored out of our minds by pov's of almost every single character in the book.
But what is a Gracekeeper, you ask?
Well, a grace keeper is someone who takes care of the graces.
And here, graces are birds.
Basically the girl, woman ( we have no idea of her age, or for how long she has been a Gracekeeper!) kills a lot of birds, when she places then in cages, like tombstones to mark where has placed some dead person to rest. And now as I think about it, I am left wondering how the cages are kept above water. -_- Are there poles? Do they have little inflatable vests?
Technicalities: they are a bitch.
Because you know, reusable cages and all that, so the birds die of the elements and starvation. Oh, and there was this little bit of information as if the birds were engineered to last a certain amount of time ( the time period for mourning of that person), but later on there's nothing else to clarify what type of society these people live in.
Stone age meets X-man?
As for our Grace Keeper, Callanish ( there's another one, but he's a drunk, and he only appears for a few pages, so who cares about the guy?), well, when the story starts, I was left with the impression that she had committed some crime, and that was her punishment: being a Mortician for dampling people. But later on, we are told that she choose that life. So, I guess anyone can volunteer?
*not Katniss. Katniss would never be such an idiot.*
Talking about Morticians and other technicalities...I guess Callanish has a lot of strength to dump a lot of dead bodies in the ocean, right? Oh, and then there's the fact that THAT is done in the most shallow part of the ocean... because IT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO F***G LOGIC!
Well, there's Callanish the gracekeeper, with the mysterious past.
North a girl who lives on the circus Excalibur with her bear, with whom she performs. The bear doesn't have a name. He's her best friend, but apparently it never crossed North's mind to give him a name. ( Here I was left thinking about Lyra from Pullman's trilogy and the relationship she had with her soul animal)
There's the ringmaster (aka Arthur), the owner of the circus, who is married to Avalon ( a crazy bitch determined to incarnate all the crazy bitches from the Arthurian Legends?) his second wife, and there's also a son (Yeah, I don't care about his name) from a previous relationship. The son, who is a boring as soaked bread, has a bit of Mordred in him, so you know what this means...
As for the other characters, like the clowns, they are mostly used by the author to briefly approach the issue of gender bending. And I say briefly, because the way it was dealt (poorly), reminded me those last episodes of Sailor Moon when some characters appear leaving us wondering if they were guys or women.
Oh, there's women being impregnated by something with scales, but that's okay, because we "should" see that as a form of integration.
How to live both on land and on the sea?
Well, that's easy: just go lie by some shore, and some dude/scaly thing will appear and "you'll" be ecstatic! See? Who cares about consent?
Of course there's still some bit of xenophoby lying around, so lets say that babies born with ebbed toes and hands are usually killed on sight.
As for the plot?
Well, as you can see there isn't one. People meet and then we get their pov's about relationships or other stuff.
The part that takes place in the circus setting, feels like a never ending soap opera.
Avalon hates North because she's a jealous nuts, and that's it.
Then there's crazy religious people. Both on land as on the sea because EQUALITY.
Sex traded as a bargain coin. Because, why not?
And people having their life dream destroyed because "he" wouldn't be Arthur if that didn't happen in the end.
Oh and they
kill the bear in the end.
Ye Gods, I have an headache.
Oh, and this gets two starts because although hating it, I had to keep reading just so I could find out what other absurdity was going to show up next!