Dear dystopian fan,
Imagine a world where women have one role, that of servant. Within this world, two sisters want nothing more than the status quo. Through happenstance, each is inspired to grow and fight against the beliefs they once held dear.
Looking deeper into the story
This YA dystopian novel’s theme of the subjugation of women is a timely one that is commonly addressed in media today. Women in this world are forbidden to read, and it was through this central idea that the plot twists and turns. Why forbid women to read? Presumably, because they might not accept the role of servant and instead seek the power they once had in this world.
Women Empowerment theme
No matter what their lot in life, women are always in competition with other women. In fact, the sisters’ mother warned them about this early in the novel. Women compete for the position of Grace, a concubine to the ruler. They compete for the attention of the Superior. They race to be the first to give the Superior a male heir. The competitions never end. In a surprise twist of fate, one sister ends up on an island prison for women. This too is a place where women are forced to compete. They must fight to the death for food and for the entertainment of the guards. Ultimately, their subjugation leads to death. I found the juxtaposition between the palace and the island a successful way to show the many sides of this theme.
The characters are compelling and reminiscent of characters found in Shakespearean plays. The antagonist is an Iago in every sense, which is the first thing I noticed. The Heir is a tragic prince and the sisters reflect many traits found in the Bard’s female characters. I am not going to belabor a comparison between Banghart’s characters and Shakespearean characters though the similarities are undeniable. That era of writing was known for its reflection of misogynistic views, so the comparison is relevant.
A few things did bother me about the story. The pivotal point in the plot – one sister being discovered with a book and sent to prison for reading – I found weak and bothersome. How did they know if she could read just because she had a book in her hands? The explanation came towards the end of the novel, but that was not adequate to understand the harsh punishment.
Also, the book would have benefited from a conclusion. The book ended in a cliffhanger presumably because there is a sequel coming out next summer. Typically, each book in a sequel, trilogy, or series has its own conclusion and culminates into a broader conclusion. This novel lacks its own conclusion, and I found that disconcerting as a reader. It’s the strength of the characters that pulls the reader from one book to another not the need to know what happens. I think ending it this way is an injustice to the characters, and we, the readers, would have followed them to the next book even if provided with a conclusion to this part of the story.
Banghart is bringing us the conclusion next summer. I, for one, am looking forward to reading about how these two sisters change the world. Grace and Fury is an effective women empowerment story, focusing on tween and teen readers. Banghart successfully reminds them that they have power. Hats off to her for that!
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