Grace by Elizabeth Scott
Published September 16th 2010 by Dutton
More at: Goodreads
If I get up now and run, I may be able to throw myself off the train before anyone can stop me. Death would be quick. Maybe.
And even if it wasn't, even if I somehow landed safely and ended up slowly dying in the desert, it would be better than whatever Jerusha has planned for me.
"Stay sill before you get us both killed," Jerusha hisses, and he is holding my hand again, his grip surprisingly strong. His voice is so cold.
He is Death, and he is here. He has come for me.
I stay still.
I wait for what I've always been told is my fate.
The People believe they represent freedom. They patrol and defend the Hills against the ever encroaching rule of the tyrant Keran Berj. For the People, there is no greater glory than to die for their cause and if their death can also mean the silencing of any of those who take direction from Keran Berj, then their death will bring great honor for the People.
Grace is an anomaly. She should have never happened. A cross-breed from a father who possessed the pure blood of the People and an outcast mother, a refugee from the rule of Keran Berj, she is the result of consorting with the enemy and for her sire's mistake, she is shunned. For his atonement, and hers, she is placed in the Angel House where she will be taught to honor the People in a way glorious enough to atone for her sins- with her death. She will be trained to walk amongst the enemy where she will be strategically placed to intercept one of their most public of servants. With her target in sight, there in a crowd of the enemy, she will ignite her bomb's fuse, giving her life and taking other's for the glory of the People.
For Grace, whose life has been a penance for other people's choices, an emblem for other people's beliefs and one limited existence governed by fanatical expectation, standing now, fuse in hand, in a crowd of those she has been conditioned to see as enemies, it dawns on Grace that at that moment, she finally has a choice. And she doesn't want to die.
The premise for this story is quite remarkable. We have a girl on the run from people on both sides. She can't go home, a place she was never wanted to begin with, because she has failed and she can't go with the enemy because to them, she is the enemy. So she finds herself allied with the most unlikely of co-conspirators, someone who is himself an enemy to both factions, someone she can't trust, and who's very name is synonymous with evil. When you are only taught to hate an enemy, firm in your belief that how they live is wrong, you never stop and give pause to consider the possibility that they may feel the same way about you and with good reason.
Thus the central theme of the story. We all have different beliefs, and we all feel that our believes are the righteous ones, thus we believe the same thing. And the development of the whole "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" undertone would have flowed nicely if it hadn't been beat to death with a brick. This concept was repeated so often as to almost appear in every other paragraph. In the end I felt like I was being preached to, which seemed counterproductive because the mindset of being relentlessly blasted with only one school of thought is the very thing Grace was struggling against to begin with. Let your story teach the lesson, not your lesson be the story.
So yeah, while the concept was intriguing and the writing poetic, I was underwhelmed with the end result. However, much praise goes to whoever designed the cover. It's Grace's face in the clouds and they could be clouds of smoke, and sparks from her bomb, or symbolic of the heaven she will ascend to for her service to the People or they could symbolize her own freedom. This is awesome.