On Halloween night, Grace came staggering into the emergency room holding her entrails in her hands, all but bleeding to death. Months have passed and Grace has found healing with the Order of Saint Raphael under the watchful eye of Mother Mary. What she has not found is herself. Grace has no idea what her name was before that night, who she is — or who she was. She doesn’t know what happened to her or why. And it doesn’t bother her as much as it perhaps should. Grace is happy where she is, with the sisters. Especially novice sister Monica.
On a visit to the mall in the company of the sisters, Grace witnesses something horrific. A man, no different than any other man, catches Mother Mary’s attention, and she, Monica, and Grace follow him. What happens is bloody, violent, and horrible and upends the fragile world Grace has been building for herself. Suddenly, she’s immersed in a world of demons and angels, of rituals and prayer and death. And the reality that she is not who she thinks she is.
This book started out like a roller coaster. First, the tension and the mystery built, climbing higher and higher. Then, when Grace discovers who or what she may or may not be, the ride began to careen down in a spiral of plot and self-discovery. Unfortunately, rather than a wild series of loops and twists and stomach-dropping action, the ride just slowly coasted to the end. And this is due in large part to Grace. In the first few chapters of the book Grace is carefully trying to find the right steps to the dance she’s now performing, balancing her own uncertainty against her friendship with Monica, and her respect for the Order and Mother Mary. But when the grand reveal comes, Grace’s voice changes rather drastically. Instead of being someone in charge of her own life, for all that it’s a shattered thing made of scraps rather than whole cloth, she suddenly becomes a victim of circumstance, thrown willy-nilly into someone else’s current, swept along and helpless. Instead of being a wry, intelligent, and thoughtful person, she becomes wide-eyed and a bit sullen. While I can understand why the changes happen, it took a character I was enjoying and turned them into … well, someone else. Someone I was less interested in spending time with.
Grace’s relationship with Monica went from one of friendship and trust to a romantic entanglement quickly, and in such a way that didn’t really work for me. It turns out Grace is possessing a body, and no one seems to mind that she is using that body to be intimate with Monica. Also, I’m not certain if it’s Grace’s own cruelty after a lifetime of being a demon, or simply indifferent malice that leads her to treat her host body’s wife the way she does. However, over and over she puts this woman through emotional hell, but it’s never so much as a blip on the radar as Grace continues to do her thing.
The writing is good, the pacing is fast, and the world building is both pleasantly familiar and yet the author has managed to take familiar tropes and make them her own. However, the characters tend to shift and change depending on the scene or the needs of the plot, accepting everything too easily, believing everything Grace says or does, and — for me — the overall tension broke too early. The grand reveal of Grace’s clever plans at the end felt a little too sudden and hand-wavy, with no buildup or real foreshadowing. Overall, it’s a nice story. I just didn’t fully connect with it.