As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.
In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives – offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.
I probably went into this book with the wrong idea. I was intrigued by the setting and the cover… paying no attention to the plot.
The writing is absolutely beautiful. Nothing too complicated, yet extemely good at sketching vivid images. It was perfect for capturing the magical and mysterious world this story takes place in.
“Whatever the truth, over time the landlockers had learned to blame the banks, the relentless drive for more money, for the rising seas and the loss of their land. Once upon a time they’d had a whole planet of fields and plains and deserts and forests. Now they had to make do with the patched-up corners of gutted cities, to cluster their homes around half-dead copses, to scrape what they could from their tiny footholds in a swallowing sea.”
And yes that world is intriguing. It mainly consists of sea, and the way society is built around that fact is very well thought out. The circus itself makes for a fun setting, though I personally get a bit sick when reading about dancing (or otherwise performing) bears.
But then we get to the plot, and it just wasn’t for me. I went in it hoping for a haunting fantasy story on a floating circus… something like that. Instead I got a bunch of drama about who sleeps with who, a whole lot of backstabbing, and a bunch of infuriating characters.
Sure, not all the characters are unlikable, and some of them you aren’t supposed to like. The perspective switches every chapter, giving us the point of view of most of the cast. Through this we follow events surrounding two girls, who meet at the start, middle and end of the book. Apart from these 3 occasions the books consists of two separate story lines which works surprisingly well.
However, the ending comes as a big disappointment. Something big happens, which should have been a major deal for one of the main characters. Yet she barely responds to it, the whole thing being glanced over.
Overall this is a beautiful book that just wasn’t for me.