Review – Graced by Amanda Pillar

Graced cover image

Publisher: Momentum (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Publish Date: Out now
Reviewed by: E
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

City Guard Elle Brown has one goal in life: to protect her kid sister, Emmie. Falling in love–and with a werewolf at that–was never part of the deal.

Life, however, doesn’t always go to plan, and when Elle meets Clay, everything she thought about her world is thrown into turmoil. Everything, that is, but protecting Emmie, who is Graced with teal-colored eyes and an unknown power that could change their very existence. But being different is dangerous in their home city of Pinton, and it’s Elle’s very own differences that capture the attention of the Honorable Dante Kipling, a vampire with a bone-deep fascination for a special type of human.

Dante is convinced that humans with eye colors other than brown are unique, but he has no proof. The answers may exist in the enigmatic hazel eyes of Elle Brown, and he’s determined to uncover their secrets no matter the cost…or the lives lost.
This blurb came from Goodreads

I am always on the search for new titles and new authors that tickle my imagination, move my senses, or otherwise envelop me in a different world. I have been in a bit of a reading slump for the last several months so when I read the blurb of Graced I was intrigued. I loved how there appeared to be an obvious undertone of science and possibly genetics involved, along with werewolves and vampires. I decided this looked like something I would enjoy. I couldn’t restrain my curiosity about the science thread and posed a question to Pillar which she graciously answered. Take a look at her discussion of science and Graced we posted yesterday. I have to say that once I started reading I was very glad I decided to give it a try. I never quite expected the twists and turns Pillar included and I really hope she continues to write in this world.

Elle was different from the heroines I typically read. She didn’t have incredible powers, she wasn’t an orphan, and she wasn’t the “chosen” one. In fact, she seemed rather ordinary except for maybe her choice of profession and her ability to partially resist her grandmother, Olive’s, influence. I loved how she focused on protecting her younger sister as much as possible while acknowledging she wasn’t the bravest person out there because she couldn’t completely protect her sister from their grandmother. Yet, as the story continued, she seemed to grow into her own, adjusting to new circumstances, opening her mind to new opportunities, and still keeping her sister in the forefront.

Clay also made a nice change from the traditional werewolf. He didn’t seem bound by pack structure or pack rules but was just as determined to explore that which intrigued him. His past held a lot of secrets and knowledge but I loved how he wasn’t infallible or perfect. His ability and willingness to apologize when he was wrong or had made a mistake added depth to his character and made Elle’s gradual change of mind towards him realistic. He was curious enough to find out what Olive wanted but strong enough with his own moral code to avoid becoming entangled in her plots. I gained great pleasure in watching Clay thwart Olive in every way he could without going directly after her until things came to a head. I also liked how he and Dante didn’t fall into either the instant fight to the death enemies or the share the heroine because she refuses to choose categories. (No, this is NOT a love triangle or a ménage).

Dante wasn’t the typical vampire in Pillar’s world either. Far more interested in science and biology then he was in blood or sex, his failed experiments on the Graced brought unwanted scrutiny on his family by an influential human family. Then as he continued to experiment, by Olive who apparently had some influence with all of the powerbrokers. As a result, his life abruptly changed and he became entangled in some long-standing plots. Yet for all of his oddities, Dante cared about others, once he saw them as people, so watching him try to relate and interact was absolutely hilarious. His character growth as the story progressed was probably the most striking even if it appeared on the surface it was the most subtle. I ended up really liking Dante at the end of the story instead of relegating him as the villain.

Elle, Dante, and Clay were never supposed to even cross paths. Once they did, as an unintended ripple effect of Olive’s plotting, it was fascinating to watch seemingly separate actions pull their lives get closer and closer until ground zero. I felt as if I had a chance to gain a sense of the world and the players so as events continued to progress, their reactions worked for me. I could also understand how Elle’s feelings for Clay grew along with her tolerance and understanding of Dante. **clears throat** I think Dante certainly paid for his actions in a way which made much more of a lasting impact then death at Elle or Clay’s hands. Watching them forced to coexist together as they worked within to find safety for Elle’s younger sister was a treat. I thought it was intriguing they were willing to stay out of the political and underground power struggles until Elle was targeted. It really worked with the characterization I had come to know.

Graced is an Urban Fantasy and while it contained some similar constructs, enough to let me pick a subgenre Pillar added her own twists to the werewolf, vampire, and “enhanced” human tropes to make her story stand out. I enjoyed the genetic twist, the origin story, and well how it resulted in a very different society. I also thought the tangle relationships caused by a complex set of rules meant to be exclusionary, politics, plots, and a refusal to just go along meekly. Pillar made it evident there is a lot more to her world and it appears as if some of the plots have combined with freewill to generate some unexpected results. I can’t wait to see what happens next with Elle, Clay, Dante, and the others.

I give Graced an A-/ B+

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