This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Please note in an exchange for an honest review, I received a copy from the NetGalley. Thank you!
This Vicious Grace is a story about Alessa who was "blessed" by Dea to be the new Finestra, one of Dea's gifts to help against the inevitable attack of the scarabeo created and sent by Crollo. Her gift? Her touch absorbs the power of others around her. For regular people this is deadly as she can quickly kill them with a tap of her pinky. But that's why each Finestra has a Fonte. For fontis (those born with elemental gifts) they exist to help the Finestra, to let her use and amplify the power of the fonte's gift.
Except Alessa might be the last (and worst) Finestra to ever exist. After killing three Fonte, she's beginning to believe that Dea chose wrong. Now with the impending attack so close, her and Dante (her hired bodyguard) need to figure out a way to control her power before it's too late.
The plot took a backseat to the romance. This Vicious Grace has an interesting plot. The idea of a Finestra, Fonte, and the idea of humanity having to routinely have to fend themselves and prove their worth to the gods had me invested into the plot. The moment that Dante (the hired bodyguard) was introduced, the romance became the focus point. Sure, they mentioned the impending fight, but it felt like we went day by day just following Alessa admiring Dante and wishing how much she can touch him.
Romance, Romance, Romance. It is your typical romance where Dante is cold and aloof, but of course has a heart of gold once you get through is walls. I don't mind that and it, admittedly, is one of my favorite tropes. Their romanced seemed forced and out of place and throughout the book, it felt like Dante fell in love with her so fast and I honestly can't understand why. There are some scenes that just felt like I was reading fan fiction (the one dealing with the smutty books) and given how untrusting Dante was, it became unrealistic how readily he fell in love with her.
Characters are one dimensional. The story is mainly in Alessa's point of view, so ideally we would get to understand her character more than all the others. Yet as I write this, I can only tell you that: she craves physical contact, says she feels guilty of the fonte's deaths, and feels like a failure for not having control of her powers. Hobbies? Well, she reads smutty books. That's all I can tell you about her. Knowing this, the side characters are definitely worse off.
The Antagonist felt like an inconvenience. Early on you find out that there is a priest who is starting a movement against the Finestra. The basis of his argument is that she has failed three times and that perhaps she's just not cut out to be a Finestra or is cursed somehow. Some of his more followers go as far as to try to kill Alessa, one of them was even Alessa's guard to her room! So the idea of someone having such a hold on their followers is scary. Yet, by the end, it felt like it didn't matter. Which leads to my next point...
The Ending Was Rushed. The epic battle was a few chapters and was interesting, but the issue of the priest and his followers and Dante felt like it was solved with a hand wave. If that was the case, then what was the point of it? We could have just taken out the whole plot of them trying to kill her and it wouldn't change a thing. Oh, wait! Without that plot line, then there would be no reason for Dante to guard Alessa. Not only that, but the last two chapters lead to an obvious sequel in relation to the plot and the god's test not being over. It wouldn't be so bad if we actually focused on the plot more.
Minor other things. This could also be that I missed something but I don't see why Alessa had to marry Kaleb. It was mentioned that not all Finestra's and Fonte's are lovers so why did they have to marry? Also, it was pretty obvious that this was based on an Italian setting. At some point, why was a mariachi band mentioned? Unless I'm mistaken, I know mariachi is founded and associated with Mexican culture, so having this present felt weird.
This Vicious Grace is a book that had an interesting plot, but unfortunately takes a backseat for the romance. The romance itself is rushed and your typical bad boy with a heart of gold falls in love with a girl. The characters are nothing special and despite there being an incoming apocalyptic battle, you never feel the urgency due to romance being the focal point.
If you are a big fan of the YA genre, then you'll probably like this book. It has your typical YA elements. If you're a die hard fan of the Jerk with a Heart of Gold trope then give this a go as Dante definitely fills this. Otherwise, I would pass on this book.