The Graces, Laure Eve (Abrams Amulet 978-1-4197-21236, $18.95, 342pp, hc) September 2016. Cover by Spencer Charles.
What is myth for the new millennium? In The Graces, Laure Eve confronts what’s left of the old with something that might take its place (no galactic empires required). The teenage narrator is new to school in a small town far enough from England’s great cities to have woodlands and wild seas nearby, show traces of its pagan past, and host a family of ‘‘witches.’’ The youngest Graces (male and female twins Fenrin and Thalia approaching graduation, sister Summer a few years behind) move through their fellow students ‘‘like sleek fish, ripples in their wake, stares following their backs and their hair.’’
They rouse an even more urgent attraction in the girl describing them in those terms, and it swiftly becomes intriguing. She gives her ‘‘secret name’’ as River Page but offers little further comment. What draws her to the Graces? It lurks in ‘‘the core of me, burning endlessly, coal black and coal bright.’’ While she chronicles budding friendship (and a passion for the boy that goes beyond his role as ‘‘school Pan’’), the entertaining details onstage can’t keep us from sensing other forces at work behind the scenes.
River notices things the Graces miss. A wall-carving prompts her to wonder, ‘‘Was it a real being I could talk to? … What did it think about humans? What did it know?’’ Thalia says it’s ‘‘just a local nature god’’ from a part of town where ‘‘old stuff hangs around.’’ Waiting for them at a standing stone, River imagines all it must have seen, ‘‘blood on its hands.’’ Yet when Fenrin asks Summer why she chose it for the rendezvous, she answers with a mental shrug (‘‘It’s on the way….’’). Nevertheless, their spells, rituals and celebrations seem to give River her only chance to find a place: with them, beyond the mundane. Even the ongoing threat of a Grace curse prompts her to tinker with another rite.
Stark mystery returns at the end of Part One, when a Lammas party leads to one man’s disappearance, and likely drowning. Part Two deals with the pain, and its source. Only now do we begin to see what the three Graces learned from River while she made her way into their world. It leads to scenes where a moment’s action and reaction goad power to manifest again – and see itself in full for the first time.