The Curses

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Graces. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Curses was written by Laure Eve and is due for release in January 2019. It is a fantasy story that focuses on a teenage group of witches as they fight to break a deadly curse on their family. The novel is the sequel to The Graces (2016) and so I would strongly recommend reading these novels in sequence if you want to have any idea of what is going on.

After Wolf’s resurrection, Summer Grace and her siblings have been trying to heal. They have cut River from their lives and are doing their best to go back to the way that they were before. However, when Marcus stumbles back into their life, they realise that they can’t distance themselves forever. River has been using her magic to grant wishes for the townsfolk, often with sinister consequences.

The Graces know that they need to do something to reign in River’s dark power but they are not certain where to begin. Her magic is very different to theirs’ and is potentially more destructive. Yet, as Summer researches into her family’s past, she realises that the Graces have encountered spirit witches before. She begins to wonder if there is a way to use River’s power for good after all. Perhaps it will even be enough to break the Grace family curse.

Yet it quickly becomes apparent that River is not their most pressing concern. Wolf has come back different. He is no longer quiet and brooding, instead seeming to suffer from some serious impulse control issues. As Summer tries to find a way to help him, she learns about a dark secret that her parents have tried to hide from her. History may be repeating itself and, if it truly is, disaster and death are soon to follow…

Before I begin, a word of warning. While The Curses is not graphic by any means, it does contain a few elements that may upset sensitive readers. There are a few instances that depict minors drinking wine, sexual references and some mild scenes of violence against women. While the book never really felt inappropriate, it is certainly aimed at older teens and you might want to flip through it yourself before gifting it to a younger reader.

If you followed my blog back in 2016, you might remember that I adored The Graces. It remains one of my favourite fantasy novels to this day due to its tense atmosphere, relatable protagonist and the beautiful way in which it was written. While The Curses is also very enjoyable, you should probably be aware that it has a very different feel to its precursor. The Graces was narrated by River – an outsider who wanted to be accepted by a family of witches – but this time we witness events from Summer’s eyes.

Due to the fact that Summer is one of the Graces, this immediately changes the whole tone of the novel. River describes the family as though they are ethereal beings – beautiful, magical and carrying an uncanny sense of “otherness” about them. Yet Summer has grown up in this world. Through her narrative, we see that the Graces are actually fairly mundane. They may perform some rituals that seem a little odd to us but for them it is more like a religion.

The Graces, as described by Summer, are virtually stripped of their mystique. The family on the whole is a little dysfunctional but otherwise fairly ordinary. While the previous novel played on the fact that it was unclear if the Graces were magical at all, this novel makes no attempt to hide their power. Yet the magic that they do wield is very down to earth, not flashy or physically impressive. It’s often unclear whether or not any of their charms have worked at all and so they generally just come across as being a little more in tune with nature than most.

Despite the change in narrative voice, The Curses still carries over many of the same themes that were explored in The Graces. Family is still the most important aspect of the stories as it explores Summer’s bond with both her parents and her Coven. However, The Curses is also a story about redemption. It looks deeply into whether or not it is ever truly possible to forgive someone, and if they are able to change even when they have committed unthinkable crimes.

While the novel carries the same steady pace of its precursor, The Curses also has a very sinister edge. Wolf’s increasingly unpredictable behaviour and the horrifying butterfly effect caused by River’s magic add an air of uncertainty to the tale. This tension was the thing that kept me absolutely hooked while reading, as it was never entirely sure if one little spark would cause everything in Summer’s life to ignite.

However, The Curses did unfortunately feel a little unfocused at times. Until the true plot – a mission to defeat a cruel trickster spirit – reared its head, the story flitted between several threads. While it initially appeared that River would be the antagonist of the novel and that Summer would be pouring her energy into breaking the family curse, these aspects were quickly pushed to the background in favour of the mystery of Esther’s cousin and the threat of the trickster.

While these threads are not entirely forgotten and are all resolved during the novel’s lengthy climax, it all felt a little rushed. The novel seemed to be intent on ensuring that everything is neatly wrapped up, yet did not really have enough space to do so. The final hundred pages of The Curses flew past like a blur, leaving me to believe that this is going to be the final book in this series. If true, this is a bit of a shame. Perhaps splitting this story into two books would have evened out the pacing.

Yet, for all my gripes, the strongest aspect of The Curses was still the characters. While I did not bond with Summer on a personal level as I did with River, the entire cast of this story still felt very real. They do not conform to typical young adult tropes or archetypes and so were very organic. Every character in this novel, from the protagonist to Summer’s random school friends, was complicated and often surprised me by acting in unexpected ways. Yet, that is life.

As this book was largely set at the Grace family home, the core cast has narrowed significantly. This was absolutely fantastic as it meant that we could spend a lot more time with both the Graces and River, getting a deeper insight into how they play off each other as the novel explored how they dealt with their grief over Wolf and found strength in their connection with each other.

Anyhow, I think that about covers everything. While I did not enjoy The Curses as much as I did The Graces, I still felt that it was a very strong read that will stay with me for a long time. I’m a little sad to see the back of Summer and her Coven but I do look forward to seeing what Eve will write next.

The Curses is due for release on 3rd January and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Sobeks 2018 – Part 4 | Arkham Reviews

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