River is new to the school, and like everyone, drawn to the enigmatic Grace siblings. But unlike everyone else, River knows how to befriend them and seek their help as rumours of their witchcraft spread through the town. Or maybe she’s just far more determined to be a part of the Grace family. Either way, are the strange things happening a result of their playful spells or is something more sinister going on?
First of all, River is not River’s name. We never find out her real name, which I like. River’s new BFF, Summer Grace, encourages her to call her by her ‘real’ name. River isn’t exactly a ‘likeable’ character. She’s far too enamoured of the opinion of others and how she can manipulate others around her. She’s does things and says things not because she means them but because she thinks she sounds or looks cool while she does it. It’s all to impress Fenrin, the male twin of the Graces. Like all teen girls, she’s enamoured by him. But because she’s soooo much smarter than all those other desperate fake girls, she tries to get to Fenrin by going through Summer, only to find that Summer is a pretty awesome best friend to have, because like River, Summer believes in witchcraft and magic spells and everyone loves Summer, but having Summer love River makes River special.
River is actually pretty unlikeable. She’s practically delusional: she holds disdain for everyone except the Graces and especially hates all the girls who love Fenrin, despite being one herself. She thinks she’s the only person in the world who is deep and not fake, which is totally ironic because she fakes being Summer’s BFF to get to Fenrin, and her love for him is based purely on his looks (shallow). She is both supremely timid in hiding her personality and inner thoughts, and calculating and utterly confident that Fenrin will return her affections because she’s just that special. Is she after the Graces, wishing to be an honourary Grace herself, or after their rumoured magic? I think it’s both.
And then there’s Thalia, the third Grace, and Fenrin’s twin. Fenrin and Thalia are older than Summer and River by a couple of years, and Thalia’s already got her own shit to deal with, but I never really warmed to her in the novel and then it almost seemed like she snapped and became another character entirely. Maybe it’s because I knew a girl called Thalia when I was younger and she was a complete bitch for no reason, so maybe my judgement is a little impaired, but Thalia Grace always seemed a little unhinged and then grew almost psychotic. Maybe it was always part of her personality, or maybe the pressure of being a Grace got to her, or maybe all those little harmless spells drove her mad, but I couldn’t grow to like Thalia. Not that that’s a bad thing, because I didn’t particularly like River, and at least Thalia is responsible for some of the bigger plot points. And I mean, we see the novel from River’s point of view, and how many older siblings like their kid sister’s best friend? I know none of my close friends’ older siblings liked me when I was a kid, for whatever reason, and I doubt my older brother liked any of my friends. So maybe that’s just a Thalia thing, even though the Graces seem pretty close as siblings.
I loved the writing style. I loved how unexpectedly the plot went in a completely different direction to which I thought it would go. I loved how River was an unreliable narrator because I haven’t read many of those before, but it did cause me to wonder what the truth actually was a few times, because although River kept secret, she didn’t always come clean with the truth in the end. The only thing I didn’t like was the implied homophobia when two male characters were caught together and the only words used to describe it was ‘disgusting’. UM NO. Two boys in love is NOT disgusting. This was said not only by one character but by my recollection two, or at least the first character implied the second one was thinking it.
So despite very few issues with the book, I’ve fallen under the Grace spell and I am really looking forward to the sequel, to finding out how the Graces deal with this new curveball, to finding out how River will be in the next book now that her relationship with the Graces has changed so drastically.