Monday, May 22, 2023

The Grace of Wild Things by Heather Fawcett

Title: The Grace of Wild Things
Author: Heather Fawcett
Publication: Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Juvenile Historical/Fantasy
Setting: Prince Edward Island
Description: Grace is a lonely orphan whose only talent is magic. Miserable at an orphanage, she runs away to the notorious witch in the woods and offers herself as an apprentice. The witch is more accustomed to baking children than teaching them, and Grace’s chatter gets on her nerves. But she agrees to a bargain: if Grace can learn all the 100 ½ spells in the witch’s spellbook before the cherry tree blooms, Grace can become her apprentice. If Grace fails, she has to give the witch her magic. Although apprehensive, Grace agrees to the pact and makes herself at home in the guest bedroom of the witch’s cottage. Soon she makes a friend, Sareena Khalil, and an enemy, Rum, a boy with magic of his own, who help her work through the spells. Then, the witch’s enemy appears and threatens to destroy the entire forest, including Grace’s new home. Grace has to care for the suddenly ailing witch and will need every ounce of skills she possesses to save the day.

My Impression: I picked up this fantasy from the new releases shelf at the library without noticing it was inspired by Anne of Green Gables, one of my favorite books. However, the Canadian author, who presumably grew up on AOGG like all the best people, succeeds in crafting an appealing story that has echoes of Anne while still creating something of her own. Grace is an orphan with a big imagination, a love of poetry, and the determination to fight for what she wants: the opportunity to develop the only talent she has, magic. Magic is also what has prevented Grace from being adopted; she can see people’s worst memories, which shame them.

The witch is seriously wicked – Grace wakes up in her oven, about to be roasted – but she begins to tolerate the persistent girl:
“. . . You must have new things. Perhaps you will care about them enough not to go rolling around in the mud.”

“New clothes?” Grace gaped at her. “New clothes? Oh, but I’ve never had new clothes in all my life! This is simply the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me. Not that I’ve experienced many wonderful things, given that mine has been a life of tragedy.”

The witch rubbed between her eyes. “You are the most melodramatic little thing I’ve ever encountered.”
She doesn't ask for puffed sleeves but Grace is as chatty as Anne and shares the ability to make friends, which is crucial to succeeding in her apprenticeship goal. The book contains some memorable characters, such as Windweaver, Grace’s pet crow, who possesses personality and a passion for poetry, as does the ever-lurking cloud, which turns out to be the witch’s enchanted brother. Less fond of Grace is Sareena’s family, until she proves herself by saving the life of the Khalils’ younger daughter. I think this book would work as a standalone but Anne fans will find nothing to dislike and, in fact, may enjoy it as I did.
The Grace of Wild Things is loosely set in the early 20th century as Wilfred Laurier is prime minister (AOGG was published in 1908) so I will count this as my twelfth book for The Intrepid Reader’s 2023 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Source: Library

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