This Vicious Grace (The Last Finestra #1) | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.
Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.
Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?"
The Last Finestra is the first novel in The Last Finestra, a fantasy novel by debut author Emily Thiede.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, and Wednesday Books for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also, note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
This story just missed the mark for me. I think what it came down to was me wanting a story that focused more on the fantasy elements, but what I got instead was a romance that I didn't care to read about.
Because it just wasn't what I expected it to be, I was going to give this a middle rating but decided to lower it a bit because I still didn't particularly enjoy myself.
Let's get into the details.
I don't have many things to say about the writing, as it was decent enough for me to get through this with no issues. The one issue I had in terms of the format of the book though was that it started to follow a countdown of 30 days. Now, this is an issue because, while it is nice to have a specific passage of time, it makes the reader more aware of the pacing and how much quality content we are getting.
The only other comment I do want to make is that I found there wasn't much need to put the proverbs at the beginning of each chapter.
One thing I did appreciate is that there are trigger warnings at the start. It is also nice to see those just so that the reader can know what they are getting themselves into.
This story follows Alessa, who is a Finestra, a person of great importance who has to partner with a Fonte in order to stop an incoming wave of demons. The only issue here is that Alessa is unable to bond with a Fonte she hasn't accidently killed yet, and time is running out. With the increase in frustration in the people, many start to turn against her, causing her to hire Dante, a mysterious criminal, to be her bodyguard.
This is the kind of story that sounded better in hindsight because once I started to delve into it, I realized it was just too simple for me, and it didn't focus on the things I wanted it to. It also just took a long while for the story to get anywhere. Because the only goal of the story was for Alessa to successfully bond with a Fonte without killing them, that leaves very little room for content. The only other thing that was happening, which took precedence, was the development between Alessa and Dante.
The first chapter by itself made for a bit of a rough start that didn't get any smoother as I read along. The concepts weren't fully explained and were a bit confusing, and it didn't go too much into what the book was actually about. Once I finally understood what was going on, which took a while, the plot just left me wanting more from it. The story also ends up taking a predictable route, which didn't do the book any favours. It went in a direction that was a bit cliché and melodramatic for me.
In terms of pacing, besides what I already mentioned in the writing section, there wasn't really any increase in tension. The characters are given 30 days to find a way to fix things and, as the days count down, the characters didn't particularly seem to get more and more nervous. So, the story was pretty stable throughout most of it, when instead it should have slowly ramped up the tension.
As I said in the previous section, the concept and magic system weren't explained enough for me. It took a while for anything to make sense, as the author was just throwing terms at you, and nothing was sinking in. The magic system was very standard, with certain people having certain abilities and that's it.
Even the catalyst for the book didn't make much sense to me. The Finestra and Fonte were supposed to protect their homeland, an island called Saverio, from demons that were sent by Crollo. The people think that this is the way things are because it is Dea, their equivalent of a goddess, reminding them of the importance of community, which makes no sense for two reasons.
First of all, it is just an odd scenario to back your story on. Second of all, it makes no sense to build a community when the fate of the island rests in only two people's hands, and not the community itself.
One thing I both liked and hated about the world in this was the bond between the Finestra and Fonte. I liked it only because it was a different way to go about creating a hierarchy. Instead of relying on heirs, the rulers would naturally be the next Finestra and Fonte. What I didn't like about it though, was that it somehow ended up creating drama that didn't need to be there.
The Finestra and Fonte are supposed to get married, but that doesn't mean the relationship has to be romantic. In my mind at least, it makes sense for the relationship to be platonic for appearances, but to have a private romantic relationship on the side with the person they actually want to be with. That, sadly, does not happen in this, and instead, we get relationship drama that I found unnecessary.
One big issue I had with this book was the characters. Starting with Alessa, I wasn't very fond of her right off the bat. She pushed the wrong button for me when she started judging the potential Fontes appearance and personality, even though she just made it clear that they do not have to be your romantic partner.
She was also very clearly out of her depth and didn't realize the full severity of the situation she was in even while people were trying to assassinate her, which goes to show that she had zero self-preservation skills. She would go outside for a stroll by herself and thought it would be fine because she usually has her face covered so people wouldn't recognize her, but should you really take that risk?
She also made incredibly thoughtless moves in this, that I can't go into without spoilers, that made me lose all hope for her character. Sure, her recklessness and naivety advanced the plot, but that is not what I want to move the story along, because all it did was bother me. She also successfully pokes a trope that I hate. She hires Dante to protect her but then proceeds to complain and push him away.
As for Dante, well, his character was there but he wasn't there if you know what I mean. He was the deuteragonist and was very prevalent in the story, but he felt more like a plot device than an actual person. He is only really there to act as the love interest and to turn up the dramatics with predictable plot twists.
Speaking of love interests though, let's talk about Alessa and Dante. Instead of a complex fantasy story, this is what the book decided to focus on, a generic and uninteresting romance. While I wouldn't say it was horrible to read, I just didn't care about these two characters and their growing bond. The kind of romance they had has been done before so many times that this just fell straight into mediocrity.
In terms of the rest of the cast, consisting mainly of the other Fontes, they didn't really do much to stand out as they were just there in the background. The one character I did actually like though was Kaleb because he was not afraid to speak his mind no matter how blunt and cynical he was being.
A big swing and a miss for me with this one. It was just too simple of a story, and even with a world and plot that wasn't complex, it managed to just be uninteresting.
This did end up reminding me of Girl, Serpent, Thorn though, as both stories have main characters that kill people with their touch. I did rather enjoy that story though, so I would recommend you try that one out (and it is a standalone). If you also want to check out my review for it, it will be linked down below!