Picking up soon after the events of The Graces, The Curses follows the Grace siblings and their two closest “friends” as they try to recover from the strange events that have occurred (events that will remain vague for the purposes of avoiding spoilers for those who have not read the earlier novel). Laure Eve now changes perspective to that of Summer, the youngest of the Graces and the first to have befriended River, the unreliable narrator of the first novel. Summer’s understanding of previous events and her recollection of them sets her up right away as an honest, straightforward narrator—more so, as one who is determined to get to the truth of many matters, especially that behind the curse that plagues the magical family.
“Truth was not a cure, but it was a damn good start,” Summer tells us. “Something fundamental had been broken, collapsing the fine webbing of secrets and denial that had caught us all like flies. But walls can be rebuilt, and truth is something you constantly had to work at. Luckily, as I kept pointing out just in case no one noticed, I was really, really into the truth. I meant to be a pest about it.” And she is, though she’s an endearing narrator, with a voice vastly different from River’s slippery, strange, but equally interesting one. Wolf, the Grace’s childhood friend and Fenrin’s romantic interest, is “back,” but something isn’t quite right with him. Even so, he and Fenrin have picked up their relationship again, but something isn’t quite right there either. Wolf has an edge to him that he didn’t before, and Fenrin seems more and more exhausted, the more time he spends with him. Everyone seems to have something to hide: “Most people are more screwed up than anyone could possibly imagine. The really normal ones can be the worst—they look normal because they’re no much better at hiding pain than the rest of us…[but] hiding is like a poison…it turns you grim on the inside.”
Meanwhile, Summer stumbles upon a family secret, and when she and Thalia investigate the mysterious death of a family member, they find that there is more to their parents’ version of the story, and to the curse that frightens those of magical abilities away from love with those who have none. As much as The Curses is about the Graces wanting to figure out their family’s past, it’s also about them trying to figure out where things stand with River, with Wolf, and, with a wider lens, with the small community of their coastal town. Something is afoot, and if they’re not responsible for the oddly magical but ominous things happening to the community, then who is? And more importantly, why are these things happening? People have been leaving their wishes in a clearing, and they seem to be answered by someone who can work magic, but the wishes don’t pan out well, and bear negative consequences. Is River the one responsible for them all, as she assumes herself to be? Eve plays with the idea of wishes as curses throughout the novel, not just with River, who, sometimes, “[…] just wants someone to shut up, or go away, and then it happens, but it really happens, in a way that’s totally out of control… with her, a wish can become a curse.”
With this second novel, we see the Graces from the inside: We see how they are with each other, the loyalty the siblings have for each other, the strength they gain from each other and can share with others they allow into their family. River, who left us so startled at the end of the first book, is now seen from Summer’s perspective, which paints her afresh, and allows her empathy, too. River and Summer’s dynamic has to now be reconsidered entirely by readers of the first novel, which is interesting in itself. The element of mystery in this narrative goes beyond just that surrounding one character—River was the magnet that held the narrative of the first novel together, and while The Curses is told only from Summer’s perspective, it treats us to more from the other Grace siblings, and a larger, tricksy plot that forces the young witches to come together in an unexpected way.
The Graces was a very readable, entertaining book. The Curses is no less. It’s a strong follow up, and it develops further the ideas of what it means to forgive, accept and let go of people we love and call family. Honesty, trust and communication are key to any relationship, as the witches come to realise, no matter what magic is used to bind people to each other.
The Curses is available from Amulet Books.
Mahvesh loves dystopian fiction & appropriately lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She writes about stories & interviews writers for the Tor.com podcast Midnight in Karachi when not wasting much too much time on Twitter.