Callanish is just a little girl when the Circus Excalibur sails to her tiny island and she witnesses a terrible tragedy, but years later she will find that she and North, the circus’ bear-girl, share a common story, their lives linked by the secrets that they both keep.
Set in a waterworld, The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan imagines a society after catastrophic climate change has caused the oceans to rise, leaving little land behind. Unlike many novels which explore post-distaster landscapes, The Gracekeepers takes us back to an almost primitive society which sees the island inhabitants (landlockers) in conflict with the nomadic sea-dwellers (damplings). Their relationships with one another are characterized by a mutual antipathy, but they are forced to trade with one another in something of a barter system for survival.
Callanish is a landlocker, and in adulthood, has become a gracekeeper, a hermit like individual responsible for the burial at sea of damplings. North is a dampling and loves her nomadic circus lifestyle, but this is under threat from an arranged marriage which would see her forced to live on land. Their narratives are interesting enough in themselves, but I found that my attention was more drawn to the setting and background characters than the main events of the narrative. Logan writes well and her secondary characters hint deeply at stories untold. I wanted to know more about the revolutionary clowns, the extent of the military’s power, how Callanish came to be a Gracekeeper and the rules and strictures this involves.
This is more The Year of the Flood than The Night Circus (the magic here is quieter, more subversive if you’re looking for ritz and razamataz) but The Gracekeepers is a read that you can get swept up in. I’m interested to see what Logan’s future writing plans are as I’d be keen to read further novels set in this world.