The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

This is one of the most beautiful and original stories I have read for a long time. It’s now out in paperback in the UK, so if you are looking for a bank holiday book, I would recommend this one.
This is a story set in a future world, a water world, where much of the population lives on board boats, travelling between the remaining islands. The story focuses on a circus boat that performs nightly on different islands with clowns, dancing horses, acrobats and a girl, North, who dances with a bear. The other key character is a gracekeeper whose role is to bless and bury the dead in the underwater cemetery that is the graceyard. Her name is Callanish. 
Callanish sees the circus when she is a child and is haunted by the memory of the bear. She lives alone as a gracekeeper because she has webbed fingers and toes which she must keep secret from the other land dwellers. Living on the land is a privilege and the land dwellers look down on the damplings who live at sea. 

North too is keeping a secret and only reveals it to Callanish after a death in the circus causes them to visit the graceyard. They part, but fate weaves them together as Callanish leaves her graceyard to return to her home island and the disgraces of her past and North’s fate overwhelms her and her bear as they follow the circus boat in their coracle.

It is rare a story feels this fresh. Logan’s characterisation is as evocative as her descriptions of the strange sea world. Red Gold the circus master, with his eczema fired cheeks, is a complex showman, pushing daring boundaries with his performance whilst at the same time craving a quiet land based life for his son. The mysterious revivalists boats spreading a missionary religion around the world, with their sinister plots and concealed purpose, fill the ports with unspoken menace. Whilst the stories of the two girls interlace towards each other and the meeting of the tales.

This is a story that stays with you long after you have closed the covers, a real keeper.


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