Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart was absolutely incredible

Title: Grace & Fury
Series: Grace & Fury #1
Author: Tracy Banghart
Publication: July 26th 2018, Hodder Children's Books
Pages: 320 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Hodder Children's Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! This has in no way affected the contents of this review.
Rating: 5/5 cupcakes
Bold, brutal and beautiful, this is a must-read with the glitter and romance of The Selection and the thrilling action and intrigue of Red Queen.
In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive.
Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace - selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman.
But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret, and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything.
Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?
Spoiler: Everything.
I love the way Tracy Banghart writes. Devoid of excess metaphors and purple prose, the writing is simple yet marked with sophistication, elegance, and raw candor that delivers an emotional punch. The writing is vivid too. The characters face heartbreaking, cruel, violent trials and each emotion they experience felt intensely real. The characters' wishes and dreams they ache for is written with zeal and heart. The author is an exceptionally talented writer with the ability to make the reader experience all that the characters go through. At times, I had to step back and take a breather. It's the mark of an exceptionally talented writer.
I absolutely adore the characters. Nomi and Serina are two incredibly written female characters that I think will inspire many young women. Nomi is almost the exact opposite of Serina. Whereas Serina was raised with the intention of becoming a Grace and exhibiting submissiveness and obedience,
Nomi is strong-willed and defiant. Both sisters will go on a journey that will refine them in the fire and make them as strong as iron. I loved Serina so much. Most characters follow Nomi's personality - strong-willed, fierce, and natural-born rebels. Serina isn't like that. She hasn't questioned the sexist and oppressive nature of her country and is content to be a submissive Grace. She's gentle and obedient. When she's sent to Mount Ruin she struggles massively. She gets knocked down consistently in training, faces harassment from the guards, and finds herself desperately hopeless on more than one occasion. But like a blade forged in the fire, she becomes the weapon that Viridia needs to destroy the dangerous structure of Viridian society. She begins to challenge and question and fight back. She becomes a warrior that thirsts for freedom and justice whilst still maintaining the gentle core of her character. She's a self-sacrificial character that would do anything for her sister. I can honestly say Serina is one of my new favourite characters in YA. Flawed, genuine, brave, and selfless - her character development is incredible.

I liked Nomi too but I couldn't relate to her as much as Serina. Nomi's character development isn't an evident as Serina due to her strong-will and defiance already being prominent aspects of her character; however, the aspects that made her a courageous, spirited character in the beginning were developed, until by the end of the book, we had an extraordinary character who began to tap into her full potential.

I loved both these characters. They were vulnerable and scared, yet quietly ferocious and incredibly brave. 

I loved Val and Malachi too. I adored the way Val saved Serina and so many other girls. I adored the way he supported Serina and believed in her. He was such a kindhearted, brave, selfless character too. I adored him. Malachi is gruff and aloof...but I liked him.
The romance is a minor plot in Grace & Fury, as the main focus is on Serina and Nomi trying to overcome the heavy oppression women experience. What romance there was was sweet and supportive. The romances were filled with chemistry and I feel like the couples suited each other well. Serina's relationship was more gentle and sweet, whereas Nomi's was electrical and simmering.
Grace & Fury reminds me of a mixture between The Belles, The Hunger Games...and real life. I believe it's the latter that makes this such a profound read. In Virida, the Superior rules the country. Each year he then takes three Graces to live with and serve him in his palace. This year it's his son's turn. Graces are trained to  be the epitome of beauty, subservience, and submission. To Serina this sounds like a chance for a better life, to Nomi it sounds like a gemstone prison. Women aren't allowed to read, learn, receive their own payment, nor choose their future. In many countries, this is still the case. Grace & Fury is a feminist book but it's one that highlights the need for equality. It's not about hating men or acquiring dominance over them like some aspects of the radical feminist movement promotes. It's about equal opportunities. I absolutely loved how the author used a fantasy setting to explore this topic with sensitivity. 

Mount Ruin was a terrible, horrific place.  Women were pitted against women, a fight to the death for food - as well as entertainment to the guards. It was horrific and brutal. There was no knowing whether or not a character would be safe, and because of the way the author wrote all the characters, it was especially hard-hitting and emotional. There was constant suspense and heart-stopping action, especially towards the end. I was on the edge-of-my-seat and almost biting my nails at various points. I was shocked by the senseless violence the women of Virida had to face. I was deeply shocked by the deaths and events that occurred. Delivered by the author's vivid, intense writing, it makes Grace & Fury an emotional, profound read.

Grace & Fury is a heart-pounding debut that was brutal, gripping, and uncomfortably real. The characters were courageous, determined and fiercely brave. They are characters that will inspire readers to have courage in the face of trials and question what they've been taught if it's harmful to members of society. The writing was compelling, the romance was beautiful, and the plot was devastating. I highly recommend this powerful read.

I give it: 5/5 cupcakes