All you must know is that today she will become one of the four saints of Haven. The elders will mark her and place the red hood on her head. With her sisters, she will stand against the evil power that lives beneath the black mountain--an evil which has already killed nine of her village's men.
She will tell no one of the white-eyed beasts that follow her. Or the faceless gray women tall as houses. Or the girls she saw kissing in the elm grove.
Today she will be a saint of Haven. She will rid her family of her mother's shame at last and save her people from destruction. She is not afraid. Are you?
Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now she is a New York Times bestselling author of darkly magical books.
Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012. She is also the author of THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, a ghost story for middle grade readers; and WINTERSPELL, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker. SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS, her middle grade novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the power of storytelling, is a 2017 Edgar Award Nominee. Claire’s latest middle grade novel, FOXHEART, is a classic fantasy-adventure and a 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. The companion novel, THORNLIGHT, was a Kids' Indie Next Pick in 2021. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade short fiction that was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and among the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2014.
Her young adult horror novel SAWKILL GIRLS received five starred reviews. It was also a 2018 Bram Stoker Award finalist and a 2019 Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her latest novel, EXTASIA, is a young adult horror novel described as "The Handmaid's Tale meets The Craft" and was a Kids' Indie Next Pick.
It PAINS me to say I didn't really like this book! Sawkill Girls is one of my favorite books and on paper this book had everything going for it: by an author I love, has culty/witchy stuff, deals with misogyny and religious trauma, has speculative elements....all things I'm generally a fan of. Unfortunately despite a strong beginning, Extasia really fell apart for me.
This is a YA horror novel set in a dystopian future where a small group of survivors have created an oppressively patriarchal, abusive power structure. The main character has dreamed of becoming a saint for her people and that is about to happen. But men have been dying in gruesome ways and the reality of being a saint is actually pretty horrifying. I don't want to spoil the book so I'm going to talk in generalities.
This is a case of having some really interesting ideas and important themes, but not executing them as successfully as I would have hoped. The character motivations and choices were often mismatched, which made it hard to buy into the premise of what our main character decides to do. There is a romantic side plot that felt forced, and not because it's queer. It's a situation where there wasn't space to build believably deep feelings so keeping it to more of a physical thing between two traumatized girls might have worked better. The ending has some twists that get extremely convoluted with weird pacing. There are some things that come too late in the book to be adequately developed. Also there is a magic system that doesn't totally make sense and maybe would have been better if left more vague and mysterious.
I do wonder if this book would have been better with more than one perspective. This is the first time I've read a single perspective narrative by Legrand and I don't think there was enough depth & internal consistency to the character work for me. One other thing I didn't love is this book goes to a place where it feels like every. single. man. is awful. Either an abuser or an accessory to abuse, and I wanted a bit more nuance. I'm even okay with most men fitting this, but it feels like we're mostly supposed to root for the women, but honestly they are all terrible too. Traumatized and abused, but terrible.
And we can acknowledge that patriarchy and a culture of toxic masculinity also hurts men. I don't know, there are books (like Sawkill Girls) that are able to successfully walk that line for me. Giving me girl power and tear down the patriarchy but with some degree of nuance. This reminded me more of how I felt about Red Hood by Elana K Arnold. But the ending of Extasia kind of walks some of that back, albeit in a weak way.
So....what do I come away with? I really loved the first part of this book and was hoping it could become a new favorite and I'm really sad it wasn't. I do think there will be an audience for this, some readers may be looking for this kind of revenge fantasy, and I do think there are some important ideas here about what it's like to experience this kind of trauma and gaslighting as a child, being raised to believe you want your own abuse. For me it just didn't quite come together and it felt heavy handed. I received an advance copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.
Know that there are ALL the content warnings for this one. Sexual assault, physical abuse, religious abuse, gaslighting, gore, murder...
An ethereal, haunting and sublime kind of supernatural horror that doesn't scare as much as shock one to the marrow with bone chilling ferocity about mankind's propensity to be enslaved by our own false beliefs and truths. And ultimately, I read somewhere that: "we're all born free but spend our lifetimes busy becoming slaves to our false truths".
Thank you to Edeleiss, Netgalley (for approving me 30 minutes after I downloaded it from Edelweiss), and, of course, the publishers for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I’m not usually a horror reader but it has been appealing to me lately with several upcoming releases, and since I read Claire Legrand’s Empirium Trilogy, I figured I’d give this a shot (especially since it’s a standalone, which I always tend to like more)
Extasia follows a girl becoming a saint in what is, essentially, a cult. The World That Was was destroyed by the hands of wicked women and Haven is the only place where humanity survives, by the grace of God. Saints are young teen girls chosen by the village elders to become vessels for people to take out their sins on, by way of beating/scratching/etc so they won’t lay their hands upon anyone else.
But the village has been plagued by gruesome and unnatural deaths and our saint, named Amity, discovers there is a lot more to her village and the other three saints than she thought. Strange creatures watch Amity, and wraiths haunt her steps. Witches beckon from the woods outside the walls, casting spells, telling Amity of the village’s lies.
As Amity struggles with her newfound power and the bodies begin to pile up, it will be up to Amity to either save Haven or burn it to the ground.
Two words to describe this horror novel: religious trauma.
I’m not quite sure what I expected from the synopsis but a pseudo-Christian/neo-Puritan cult book apparently wasn’t what I had envisioned for this fantasy horror. I usually read high fantasy books like Claire Legrand’s Empirium Trilogy so I guess I expected more of a fantasy religion instead of one so clearly influenced by Christianity in a what seemed to be a dystopian/post-civilization Earth. Just not really my cup of tea to read about. In the beginning of the book it was, in all honesty, quite hard for me to read. The way the women are treated and blamed, how severely Amity is brainwashed and abused… not exactly for the faint of heart. But it is a horror book so I suppose that’s the point. I was uncomfortable and uneasy and nauseated and if that was what Legrand was going for, she nailed it.
But as the novel progressed and Amity’s eyes were opened, where the plot began and Amity given purpose other than mindlessly following the rules that allowed her to be abused, it became easier for me to read. I had initially worried I wouldn’t like it, but I grew to enjoy it and really liked the aesthetics. Extasia became a novel about female rage and witchcraft and sisterhood and escaping abuse and freeing oneself from oppressive religions.
In turns, Extasia cycled through scenes of the sunlit village of Haven, comforting save for the neighbors that can turn vicious and hateful and the gray wraiths that haunt Amity, and a twilight world with a blood red moon and white trees, where magic is want made real, impossible things brought to life.
And yes, the book is sapphic! Think witches kissing in elm groves and flower gardens. Not only were two side characters sapphic, but Amity also is and has a relationship with another girl.
So I would recommend this for those looking for a deeply unsettling horror fantasy with lots of religious trauma, wlws, and witches.
This is a story about religious fanatics. Four saints of Haven need to fight an evil power that lives under the black mountain. The main protagonist will be one of these saints. But there is more to her story, and she has more to hide. A fantasy story mixed with elements of horror and presented for young adult readers. I will try to keep this review simple this time.
Pros: - A very intriguing premise. - Somehow atmospheric. At least in some scenes, if not the entire book. - A few characters were crazy and exciting. - The cover is gorgeous.
Cons: - The book felt long for what it is. - The pacing goes up and down. In some parts, the story was moving very fast and sometimes it kept dragging. - Considering the nature of the story, several scenes felt too preachy.
I'm so glad I decided to pick this book up despite not seeing many reviews for it, because this was just a treat! It's an insane reading experience in the best way, and I need more people to read it.
I really enjoyed Claire Legrand's Sawkill Girls, and this definitely seems in a similar vein, so I'd absolutely recommend it to anyone who liked that book (though I do think Sawkill was just a little bit better). The blurb doesn't really give you much, which is probably for the best, but I'll try to hint at some of its broader ideas in this review.
This is admittedly a really bizarre and often difficult to read story, but the payoff, to me, was absolutely worth it. I've learned I actually really enjoy fantasy/horror/magical realism set in puritanical societies, so this was an oddly great fit for my taste. I don't really like horror — I like thrillers and I like fantasy, but I don't like being scared all that much, and I don't like gory descriptions. But when I do read horror, it's this.
Maybe this won't be a useful reference as I'm not sure these are names many people recognize, but Legrand's style and voice remind me a lot of a Peternelle Van Arsdale or a Kelly Barnhill (or even a more traditional magical realism writer) who write stories that are similarly folkloric and off the beaten path. This might not make sense, but the writing style reminds me of a nightmare. It's that slow creeping sense of inexplicable disquiet and images that are unsettling without knowing why. But I love the way it starts out so uncomfortable in the beginning, and yet as the main character herself evolves, so too does the reader's perception of this world.
I loved that unlike many other stories in this genre, Extasia is actually set in the future, giving it an almost dystopian feel. Some people have described this as a cult story, which wouldn't necessarily be how I'd describe it in terms of a sub-genre, although Haven can definitely be seen as a cult... (So if you're not someone who likes to read about evil Christians, devil worship, etc. this is maybe not the book for you.)
Not to mention there are gays in this book! In such a puritanical society I'd have been disappointed if the possibility of queer people wasn't addressed. It's definitely not the focus, but the f/f relationship and sapphic (full lesbian I think) main character were really sweet and enjoyable.
While there are some pretty purely evil people in this book, there's so much of an emphasis on the nuanced spectrum of morality despite the black and white perspective that both Haven (the cult/town) and Malice (the leader of the anti-establishment coven) try to enforce. I have gotten pretty tired of the very centrist-type stories about how oppressor violence and violent rebellion are actually equally bad... but that's not exactly what this book is getting at. There's no centrism here; the centrists get burned (rather literally) pretty early in the story. And yet, there are still people on "both sides" who go too far, and this is a reality. There will always be people in activist movements who go to far and who hurt the people they're supposed to be helping, and this was such an interesting representation of that phenomenon.
"All of these things are true. You must learn how to hold them in your heart and mind at the same time."
The only thing is that I am... unsure... about the choice to imply a sequel. I can't tell if a sequel will actually happen, but I did feel that this other plotline (I won't spoil it but basically the Jaime plotline) was a weird add-on and that it didn't necessarily need to be there. I liked the general idea of it, but I'm just not sure it was executed very well. It would kind of only make sense if there was a sequel, but I also don't know if we really need one. Still, I'm sure I'll read it if it comes out.
I haven't read Furyborn, and since I haven't heard the best things, I'd honestly rather avoid it, but I think I have to try some of Claire Legrand's other work after loving both this and Sawkill Girls.
So yes! Please read this book! If you like horror and/or magical realism, if you like vaguely allegorical feminist stories with nuance and sapphic undertones, if you like eerily beautiful writing — read this book!
هِون، دهکده ایه که زیر نظر مردانی دینی به نام اِلدِر رهبری می شه. اونا یه کتاب دینی دارن که در اون توضیح داده شده که سالها پیش دنیای متفاوتی که وجود داشت، در نهایت به خاطر زنان و تابوشکنی هاشون پایان یافته و خدا جمعی انسان رو برگزیده تا در دهکده هِون به شیوه ای که درسته، زندگی کنن. اون شیوه هم چیزی جز بدرفتاری با زنان، کتک زدنشون، محدود کردنشون و... نیست. توی این دهکده، هر دوره چهار دختر ردای قدیسین رو به تن می کنن تا سپر بلای دیگر زنان دهکده باشن. دعا کنن. در روزهای خاصی مورد کتک از سوی اهالی دهکده قرار بگیرن تا گناهانشون آمرزیده بشه و خشم خدا از دهکده هِون به دور بمونه! اما آمیتی، یکی از قدیسین جوان دهکده، به رازها و حقایقی پی می بره و به جادویی به نام اکستازیا دست پیدا می کنه...
یه رمان تک جلدی جذاب از کلیر لگراند، خالق سه گانه جذاب امپریوم! داستانی که حرف های زیادی برای گفتن داره. آشکارا دین و مذهب رو زیر سؤال می بره، از ویروس خرافه و خرافه فکنی می گه و ظلمی رو که در حق زنان می شه، به شکلی نمادین به تصویر می کشه.
در رمان می خونیم که نام دختران از اونا گرفته شده و با عناوینی که مشخص کننده یک صفت هست، خطاب می شن. مثلاً بخشش، خشم، عهد، انتقام و... این نکته کوچک به تنهایی خود حرف ها داره و نمایانگر مفهومی عمیقه.
نکته ای که در کارهای کلیر لگراند برای من جذابه، نبود قهرمان سفیده! قهرمان های آثار این نویسنده، مِن جمله آمیتی از همین رمان یا رایلا و الیانا از سه گانه امپریوم، اصلاً کرکترهایی با سفیدی خالص نیستن! در مواقع لزوم خودخواه می شن، با تصمیماتشون به خیلیا آسیب می زنن، حتی در جایی از قصه که نیازه، دستشون رو خونین می کنن! همین اونا رو از کلیشه های کرکترهای اصلی سفید و قهرمان سایر رمان ها متمایز می ��نه.
با وجود اینکه فضای اکستازیا متفاوت از امپریوم هست و کلا دو جهان داستانیِ مختلفن، اما نکات مشابهی در شخصیت ها و عناوین و جهان سازی و سیر داستان در هردو برای من مشهود بود. نکاتی که امضای کار این نویسنده خوش قلمه💫
This seems to be a very mixed bah of ratings on this one. But I'm ob the higher end of star rater. I ended up quite liking this one. It was intense in some parts and hard to put down. I found it interesting with the cult like religion focus on this one, feeling both dystopian and fantasy at the same time
Personal rating: I've been waiting for a follow-up YA to Sawkill Girls and I got it.
Thank you Edelweiss and Katherine Tegan Books for the arc!
Upon first inspection of the cover of EXTASIA I got the feeling of a feminist tale of women taking back their power, but I wasn't prepared to find that it was so much more than that. It's a story of religious trauma and misogyny with a Village-type vibe. I was surprised when I found that it was only one POV and I think it would have SHONE with multiple's like Sawkill Girls. It shone nonetheless in ways I never expected.
Amity has waited her entire life to get chosen by God to become a saint and protect her village of Haven. She's to become one of four girls blessed and given the role of-let me say this bluntly-punching bags of the sinful. As a way to confess their sins, the village uses violence on the saints as a way of forgiveness. It's the equivalent of lashing yourself as penance for immoral thoughts or acts except they're not hurting themselves. In this world, women have been blamed for the end of humanity and have been punished so.
I hate every aspect of that BUT I know it's crucial to Amity's character arc and storyline.
Desperate to save her village from God's wrath and stop the mysterious killing of their men, Amity finds herself conversing with witches and takes it upon herself to learn forbidden magic in order to save her village. This is, in essence, a story about girls taking back their power from men who have abused them for far too long. Angry girls, be angry. Take up space. Use your power. All that.
If you're not into weird stories, this may not be for you, but I'm a big weirdo and loved every second of Amity's journey to find her own worth. I loved the writing, but I've been a fan of Legrand for a looooong time. I connected to the characters right off the bat. I loved the queer romance and how much Amity loved and respected her long-time male friend.
Extasia is a heart-wrenching but hopeful book and it was everything I expected from the author. It is dark and violent and will make you angry and want to crush the pages (don't do that. Books hate it).
I'm an odd one out but I unfortunately couldn't finish this one. I couldn't get past the focus on religious trauma - even knowing that it eventually moves away from that, trying to read past that point was exhausting for me and once I put the book down I didn't want to pick it back up. I really wanted to finish this one because I'm a big fan of horror and witches, but this just wasn't for me.
*slams hands on desk* Incredible! Just incredible! Down with men!
Thank you very much to EpicReads and the author for my early copy! Full review and more at A Book Shrew
She has no name. None that matters anymore, for today she will become Saint Amity. In a post-apocalyptic world, made so because of the evil women of the time before, there exists the village of Haven, chosen by God to survive. Amity is to be one of four girls who are wholly pious and will protect Haven from the evil that plagues their village. Nine men have already died in such gruesome ways, and their precious saints are meant to save them. What unfolds is a fiercely feminist tale filled with horror and darkness and the light of self-discovery.
I loved this so much and have nothing but praise for it. It was so haunting and well done. Bloody and raw and honest. The early copy I received describes this as a searing tale, and I absolutely agree. It was very difficult for me to put down because Claire Legrand's writing is both stunning and evocative. So many scenes felt visceral in how they were described and made me feel so wholeheartedly for these poor girls. It has excellent The VVitch vibes that will appeal to a lot of readers.
Amity is a character that goes through an incredible journey of self-discovery. When we first meet her, she is meek and desperate to fit into her village as a God-chosen Saint. Doubt has been cast on her family for years, ever since her mother brought the devil into Haven and coerced one of the elders into her marriage bed. And Amity believes every awful word said about her mother. As the story progresses, however, and Amity meets those responsible for the terrible deaths of the men in the village, her eyes are opened to the other paths she could take as a young woman. While told solely from her POV, there are other characters, such as the three Saints and Amity's little sister, that make this a lush story.
Religion has a huge role in this story, and it is bleak. It is very much male-centric and quite dark, so it is good to be aware of trigger warnings. The misogyny in this village is rampant and hard to swallow sometimes. Girls are betrothed to boys, are good only as wives and mothers, and cannot go anywhere alone. They cannot read, cannot write. The Saints have it the worst of all, but it takes Amity some time to understand this. For example, there is a regular gathering where the citizens of Haven physically take out their sins and frustrations on those poor girls. They are treated as tools, objects, to be used as the others please, and it can be quite upsetting. But all of this makes the ending so much more satisfying.
What attracted me most to this book was that it was another standalone horror. I read Sawkill Girls before this and found myself a little disappointed. Extasia exceeded all my expectations. The setting this story takes place in, along with the historical feel, gives it the perfect atmosphere for an intense novel. It's certainly not for someone looking for a light-hearted read, and it is much darker than Sawkill. There are vicious murders, terrifying ghosts, and seething witches that Legrand does not hold back from utilizing to their full extent.
I still can't believe I was lucky enough to win an early copy of this and I am delighted to shove it in everyone's face.
this is a book about neo-puritan religious trauma and misogyny. there *are* fantasy elements, of course, but the main conflict of the story is completely believable & rooted in real history. i expected more of a zany fantasy apocalypse cult vibe, and that's definitely not what this is. there are horror elements (think midsommar-type elaborate deaths), but don't go into this expecting a true fantasy...although there are witches. and we LOVE to see witches.
anyways, this is totally up my alley, and i wish i liked it more than i did.
first, what i enjoyed:
- the middle ~250-page-chunk has some great twists and was well-paced and really good. if the whole story had been like this, it would've been an easy 4 or 4.5 star review—extasia is almost worth reading for the middle section alone. for those who have already read it, i was super invested up until they arrived at the mountain.
- i really liked the focus in this book on what it means to be complicit in abuse—whether people should be forgiven or punished for being kind and supportive but still allowing, through their inaction, for terrible things to happen. i also loved the discussion on what it means to hold two conflicting feelings on something or someone at the same time—to, in the words of my role model phoebe bridgers, hate them for what they did, but miss them like a little kid.
- in general, actually, the themes were really solid and presented well. legrand focused on aspects of trauma, grief, and feminism i don't often see covered in books. a particular favorite was a poignant discussion on blame between Amity and her mother. to say more would be to venture into spoiler territory, but i thought legrand handled that and other difficult topics with a great amount of intelligence and compassion.
- this book! is! sapphic! AND it's also about religious trauma, so amity deals with plenty of internalized homophobia. i loved the love interest—she is beautiful, clever, willowy, endlessly kind—and the romantic development was believable to me.
what i didn't like:
- the writing style had high highs, but was also at times super awkward. for example, the third sentence in this book is literally "i am not like other girls." yes, seriously. similar double-takes occurred at other parts of this story. also, the use of 'tis but no other anachronisms was a wild writing choice.
- the first ~100 pages were slow. world-building is, of course, very important, but despite massive empathy for their situations it was difficult to become invested in any of the characters. i get the first part is meant to demonstrate the extent to which amity has been brainwashed and abused, and it was appropriately nauseating to that end. but it was also oddly-paced and a little contrived, and i found myself struggling to get through it not just because it was gruesome, but also because it was boring.
- i thought the "big reveal" in part 4 was a really disappointing direction for the story to take. it wasn't elaborated upon enough to be in any way believable, and it ruined the distressing realism of the story for me. thematically, i feel the same goals could've been accomplished with a better plot decision (and i would be much less grumpy). likewise, the epilogue felt unnecessary, and i wish a different choice had been made to demonstrate the same idea. like literally any other choice.
- while amity was quite strong, much of the supporting cast was incredibly one-note throughout the book and could've benefited from stronger development. immediately coming to mind are blessing, mercy, and malice.
- why did the names have to be nouns. why. names matter a whole lot in this book, but when they change, it's from a meek submissive religious noun to a DOMINANT ANGRY FEMINIST NOUN. generally, i feel legrand could have made her themes less blatantly obvious and trusted the reader a little bit more, and this is a good example of that. i should not be laughing during this very tense, dark story at "we all step through it—hunger, sorrow, vengeance, SAMUEL, malice..." but there is simply something so comedic about that and you can't change my mind. samuel is just such an average lad in this furious bucket of nouns.
overall: this is no grace year, but this book has a lot to say, and i think for many of you it could be a hit. if you like slow-burn horror or believable feminism in YA, this is worth reading. brilliant themes, lackluster execution for me.
**thank you to Epic Reads @ Harper Collins for this ARC.**
"I seek to beat the Devil, no matter how many lies I must tell, no matter who I must befriend to defeat him."
The VVitch meets The Village in this chilling read that will give you nightmares.
Finally! Claire has made her way back to horror. After finishing Sawkill Girls, I knew that she had a twisted mind and she proved me right with this book. It was incredible.
I absolutely love books written by Claire. No matter what genre it is, I know that I'm going to devour it and fall deeply in love. With all of my book swooning out of the way, this has to be my favorite book written by Claire. She presented us with a witchy tale and twisted it into this gothic demented sordid tale. She bares her true soul and lays it at our feet as if we are wolves out looking for prey. It was a devilishly delicious read and I loved it.
This book was excellent. I was a tas bit hesitant to start this book because there are a lot of terrible reviews out there but I'm not sure if we read the same book because this was Claire at her finest. She pulled no punches and released a one-of-a-kind story. Every chapter brought something new to the story and I was hooked. This is one book that I wish I could experience all over again.
Extasia is the witchy tale that we have all been waiting for. I loved everything about this book and I hope you give it a chance. It is truly one of my favorite books of the year.
"She is her mother's daughter, and the Devil likes whores best of all."
I was so excited to get to Extasia as I adored Sawkill Girls it was one of my top reads of 2020 and while I did enjoy this I didn't love it. I think that's mainly to do with the fact that I went in expecting a solid fantasy world with amazing witchy vibes and while it does have that something was still missing for me with the witchy elements.
I won't say too much but the author goes down a certain plot route that I really don't enjoy and it unfortunately spoilt a lot of my enjoyment. Just a personal preference.
Although I didn't love this I did absolutely love the characters and I wanted so much more of Silence she was just everything, love that it's sapphic could have had more sapphic moments and i would have been in my element the moments between the 2 love interests are few and far between, loved the setting, loved the ghost elements, they were really eerie, It had a really eerie vibe throughout which I loved too. please check trigger warnings before going in this has some really dark themes which explore religion, violence against women and female trama.
Thank you so much to harper360 for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
My brain hurts but in a good way? This book consumed my entire day. I loved the feminine rage. The shots taken at purity culture were beautiful. The magic was fascinating. The sisterhood aspect was my favorite! Maybe I'll rewrite this to make sense when I have brain power but probably not.
This book was ragey and feminist and healing in the best ways!
This is definitely not for me. I don't deal well with religious drama, cults, and religious zealots, and while I was told that the book eventually moves past that, I just didn't feel the strength to slog through that part of the story to get to the interesting bits. I put this book away and picked it up so many times, I finished 3 other books in the meantime. And I had to force myself to pick it back up every time. The only reason I stuck with it so long is because it's an advanced copy. I usually feel obligated to at least make it through a quarter of a book I received for review before I call it quits.
Religious oppression and violence is not the only reason I couldn't finish this book. I can't stand the main protagonist. I also don't understand her motivations. The choices she makes don't makes sense. She is so pious and ready to become a saint, and judgmental of anyone she considers not pious enough, especially her mother... then she decides that she wants to find the Devil? Hmmm, why exactly? How a barely remembered story (that ended badly, by the way) would make her think that confronting the Devil would save her village? Why is she willing to commit theft and perjury for that?
There are a lot of her other choices and behaviors that made me shake me head in dismay. And they made me like her even less. For someone who sees herself as a sort of paragon of piety and virtue, she is extremely judgmental and unkind to everyone who she sees inferior to her. That's especially glaring towards her fellow saints and her sister. I'm sorry, but I can't possibly root for someone this unlikeable.
The worldbuilding is wobbly at best. I can't even picture how this village lives. What kind of technology do they have? How do they feed themselves? What do they wear? How do they craft their tools? Nothing. The explanation about Extasia is also rather unsatisfying.
I've seen a lot of raving reviews for this book on Goodreads, but for me, it was a disappointment.
PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I received an ARC from Edelweiss TW: branding/knife violence, cult/religious trauma, killing of raised animals, body horror, mentioned physical abuse & domestic abuse, mentioned gun violence, torture, execution by fire, attempted sexual assault, dog death, victim blaming, cannibalism, suicide, public lashing, nonconsensual bleeding 3.3
The newest Saint Amity wants nothing more than to make her father happy and repent for the sins of her mother, who let in the devil and may be the cause for all the deaths plaguing them. But from the beginning, things do not go as she expected. There are other women, in the woods past the town line, though they have all learned that Haven alone was chosen to survive. Which makes Amity wonder- what else have they kept from her?
I was excited about this book, because I really liked Sawkill Girls and I loved the idea of horror revolving around an disenchanted Saint. But, much like Amity, I became disillusioned from the start. Part of the reason why is my own fault for trying not to read synopsises or remind myself of the plot before reading a book. Though, to be fair, the synopsis itself also doesn't explain much. So I thought I was picking up a book about a girl going into sainthood to destroy it. And then I thought I was going to be reading about a girl having her faith stripped from her as she realized what sainthood meant. But, surprisingly, beyond the beatings- which, honestly, felt like they were meant to have more of an impact on us than on the main character, since she was fully aware of them- the fact of Amity's apotheosis is barely a part of this story. So, overall, not the story I was expecting to read.
But still, it had good horror elements. The imagery is creepy and unsettling, the ghosts felt brand new which is a feat with something so well known and often used. The way the magic worked was not groundbreaking, but definitely had its moments of being completely and utterly striking. And Legrand's writing itself is very precise, mysterious, and easy to enjoy.
I also thought the quest storyline was interesting. The way it plays out felt very high stakes, and as murky as it was eerie. I will say, I didn't the quest itself made much sense, and not much triggered it, but as a concept on its own I did like it.
There's also the beginnings of interestingly nuanced morality at play here, though I thought it was a bit too much scattered. The witches' declaration for Satan took me aback and disappointed me, as it seemed to turn to pretty clear black and white morality all over again, where before it had been a lot more interesting. But that might just be me.
Overall, this story, which could have been so unique and crazy, wound up feeling like it cut and paste several other books on top of each other. I've never read a book exactly like this one, but I have read a lot that felt like each of the different elements- which might be fine if the elements went together better. But instead the were loose ideas, and with not nearly as much personality as I'd have expected.
I also thought the pacing itself was strange- from the sudden kick off of doubt to the more or less out of the blue determination to do a quest to find the devil to the long stretches of... I don't really know what. And as excited as I was about Amity/Rage at the beginning, her almost complete lack of an arc made her feel like a flat mouthpiece.
I was ready to love this book, and it did give me some of the elements I was waiting for, but it missed the mark for me. This just doesn't feel like a completed novel.
coś między 3.5 a 4. to wyjaśnienie na końcu bardzo dziwne i ma dla mnie vibe dystopijnych książek z 2013 roku... ale fajnie się czytało, dobrze napisane i super bohaterki, więc nie narzekam na to aż tak. no i fajne otwarte zakończenie chociaż nie zależy mi na kolejnej części jakoś bardzo