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Book Review: Powers like no other in "This Vicious Grace"

There are few YA novels I get excited for anymore. Emily Thiede'sThiede's debut fantasy novel "This Vicious Grace" is at the top of my list for 2022.

Alessa has killed each of her three partners. Not out of malice–her God-given power meant to magnify her partner's magic has killed each of them the moment she touches them. After receiving a literal sign of the apocalypse that will destroy her island home and people, Alessa realizes she's run out of time to find a new partner and save her people. Assassination attempts follow her everywhere she goes, so Alessa hires Dante, a brooding bodyguard with secrets of his own. With Dante's help, Alessa must learn to master her gift in time for the apocalypse or die trying.

Inspired by Catholicism and Italy, the setting and worldbuilding are lush and larger-than-life. Many YA writers bog down their novels with worldbuilding. Still, Thiede balances the story well without dumping the details of the island. The premise as a whole is remarkable, and unlike any other I've seen–reading "This Vicious Grace" is a cinematic, stunning experience.

From Alessa and Dante to the conniving priest and mentors, the characters are wonderfully nuanced without being too dramatic. Alessa's narration is poignant and deeply resonates with the struggles of a teenage girl–namely, acceptance and desire in a world that pushes unattainable expectations onto the shoulders of teenagers. Thiede's inclusion of the found family trope warms this cold, dead heart. Alessa and Dante's dark humor matches perfectly with the absurdity and drama of their situations.

Not to mention, Alessa and Dante's romance isn't the usual melodramatics of YA literature–their chemistry is palpable but youthful without all the utterly depressing conversations other YA book couples have. The team also follows my favorite trope: the grumpy love interest whose walls crumble when they're around the sunshiney protagonist.

Thiede's debut has little to no issues; nevertheless, the ending and the climactic battle scene felt rushed and lacked the same tension as the rest of the novel. The magic system–although imaginative–thought it was missing key details to understanding how Alessa and her partners use their powers and left more questions than answers.

With its suspenseful cliffhanger and secrets revealed, I'mI'm practically giddy for the sequel to "This Vicious Grace." Lush, imaginative and full of my favorite tropes, put Thiede's debut at the top of your 2022 wish lists.

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