Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all? Find out in this lush, atmospheric fantasy novel that entwines love, lies, and sacrifice.
Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.
Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.
Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Strong sexual themes, Violence
Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. In the town of Three Graces, death is a knowable thing. The crops do not fail, childbirth happens free of incident, and injuries heal quickly and without infection. And every seven years when the Slaughter Moon rises, a boy runs into Devil’s Forest as a sacrifice. Local folklore says that this is part of a bargain, forged when the Devil fell in love with a witch. But the Slaughter Moon has risen four years early, and the bargain may be weakening. Rhun has always known he would be the anointed saint; he just thought he had more time. Mairwen, a witch, feels the pull of the forest as well, as does Arthur, a boy whose mother raised him as a girl so he would never be a saint. The three go into the forest, and neither they nor it will be the same. Gratton neatly sidesteps a love triangle by putting her trio on equal footing: this is a polyamorous love story as much as it is an eerie, consuming tale of sacrifice and faith. Haunting and unique.
Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
When the needs of the many require the deaths of a few, three friends defy tradition. Idyllic, isolated Three Graces has enjoyed good health and harvests…in exchange for sending their “best boy” into the Devil’s Forest every 7 years. Few survive to return; all are venerated as saints. Now the sacrifice is coming due too early, and bighearted 17-year-old Rhun Sayer is favored as the saint while 17-year-old Arthur Couch (initially raised by his mother as a girl in an effort to protect him from being chosen) insists on proving his masculinity. But 16-year-old witch’s daughter Mairwin Grace is determined to keep her friends alive. Rather than a tortured love triangle, Gratton (The Queens of Innis Lear, 2018, etc.) treats their evolving, polyamorous relationship sincerely and sensitively. The fantastical elements are described in gorgeous and grotesque detail, their vividness overcoming the generic setting—a vaguely medieval northern European enclave peopled primarily by white citizens (such as blond Arthur and brunette Mairwin), with some who are brown-skinned with curling black hair (Rhun and his mother, a refugee). Told in present tense with the hypnotic cadence of fairy tales and Norse sagas, muddled by amnesia, and illuminated by flashbacks, the elaborately nonlinear narrative obscures a relatively thin plot. Although action-packed, violent, and macabre, this is ultimately a love story. Horrifying, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, a lush fairy tale rooted in a moral quandary. (Fantasy. 14-adult)
About the Author
Tessa Gratton has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. Alas, she turned out too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for a someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in Gender Studies, then settled down in Kansas with her partner, her cats, and her mutant dog. She now spends her days staring at the sky and telling lots of stories about magic.
Her website is tessagratton.com
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