This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede is a solid romantic fantasy debut that takes place in fantasy Italy. If brooding bodyguards, chosen ones, and the Italian language excite you, then you will enjoy this story.
The story follows 18 year-old Alessa, the “Finestra” of her people. A “Finestra” is a magical warrior chosen by the gods to protect the people from the hordes of demons that come to devour the lands. A Finestra’s power is that they can magnify another person’s magic abilities to be beyond devastating in power. These fellow magical people are called “Fontes”, and they are rare.
Alessa, however, is no ordinary Finestra. Her power is so strong, she has accidentally murdered three Fontes by touching them. This type of power has never been seen before, so naturally her people start to grow panicked that perhaps she isn’t really chosen by the gods to be their savior.
Attempts are made on Alessa’s life by religious fanatics, and so she hires a brooding fighter she finds on the docks called Dante.
Alessa and Dante struggle to stay alive as civic unrest grows, and Alessa struggles with her inability to control her power. However, time grows short as the demon horde grows closer and closer to laying havoc on her people and killing them all.
An interesting premise, an average experience
The idea of a savior duo holding back hordes of demons sounds like it should be an exciting story, especially if one of the members of the duo keeps accidentally killing their partner due to their intense power. However, this intense plot hook is stifled by the low world-building and teenage angst and drama often found in YA Light Fantasy.
A high concept stuck in a low fantasy setting
The world-building is mildly fleshed out, but what is revealed about the world is usually done in exposition dumps. I was confused as to why the people of the land didn’t just leave for another country when it is a known fact that this country will be ravaged by demons over and over again. Furthermore, the concept of the evil “ghiotte” demons was completely underdeveloped. The twist involving these creatures completely lacked any weight due to the reader not knowing anything about them.
Also, the final battle was relegated to only a short chapter. This felt unsatisfying due to the battle being the main driving force for the stakes of the entire novel. At the end of the day, the idea for the world was high concept but it wasn’t able to live to its full potential due to the light fantasy story.
You can definitely tell it’s a debut
The writing feels a bit cliche and amateur. The world is portrayed as fantasy Italy, but then modern vocabulary will sometimes sneak its way into the dialogue, giving a sense of whiplash. The similes and metaphors often stick out in the dialogue rather than seamlessly adding to the description. It is definitely not the worst writing, but the it does seem a touch uninspired.
The main characters are actually well written (can’t say the same for the side characters)
The main female character Alessa is well written in the sense that her character motivations are clear and that the trauma of her past clearly effects her. She is not a Mary Sue, which I do appreciate. The male love interest, Dante, is swarthy and brooding. He is probably the best character in the book. The twist about his character did make me eye-roll a bit, but overall I thought the author did a fine job of portraying this knife-loving bookworm. Alessa and Dante’s romance is also not insta love, but takes the time it needs to give their feelings for each other a chance to blossom.
With that said, the side characters are all forgettable and barely fleshed out. The “Fontes” do hold importance to the plot, but each one is given barely any time to show personality.
Stories like these are what libraries are for
Would I purchase This Vicious Grace to take up my ever decreasing shelf space, no. Would I say rent it from the library if you see it on the shelf? Sure, go for it! It’s a solid distraction and the romance might just be enough to carry you through it.
This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede was released on June 28th, 2022