Another book I picked up on the strength of hearing the author interviewed and thinking ‘Ooh, she seems cool.’ The last book I read for this reason turned out to be bloody awful, but I was undeterred.
The gracekeepers is ‘high fantasy’, so it’s set in an imagined world, one which is primarily covered by water in fact. There’s a reason I don’t read much high fantasy. I often fail at the imaginative leaps required; I get hung up on logistics and technicalities, and if these don’t make sense to me, I start to disengage. Which is a particular hazard with this genre. Sorry, high fantasy – it’s not you, it’s me.
Back to The gracekeepers. The story centres on two women, both misfits in their worlds, told in a dual timeline: North, a performer in a floating circus troupe, and Callanish, who tends to the dead in a lonely land-based existence. The writing is absolutely gorgeous, vivid, poetic, full of emotional depth, and the two characters are intriguing. I felt excited and fascinated after the first few chapters, and it’s such a good feeling when you start a book and it has an immediate wow-factor that grabs you, plus you suspect that the two women will [spoiler alert] at some point. It’s one of life’s great pleasures. My life, anyway.
After the initial fireworks, it fizzled out for me, and even a dramatic turn of events towards the end didn’t reignite it. The plot seemed to be treading water (to use a more appropriate metaphor) for a lot of chapters. I felt becalmed, and despite the company of the flamboyant circus characters, I started losing interest. The author has assembled some wonderful original material, and the book starts out full of promise and verve. She lays the pieces round, and they are lovely pieces, and we admire them from every angle – but when will she start doing something with them, we wonder? And there was too much that just didn’t make sense to me, which is partly me being a bit over-literal I know, but also logical flaws, and I need that stuff to be in place to be able to enjoy the magic stuff.
Is there a term for writers who craft gorgeous prose, but fall short at putting a story together? That would be really useful to have.