Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt fantasy book reviewsHeirs of Grace by Tim Pratt fantasy book reviewsHeirs of Grace by Tim Pratt

Independent, modern young woman narrates, in First Person Smartass, how she was just an ordinary person with an ordinary life who didn’t believe in the supernatural, but then it turned out that the supernatural believed in her, and around about the same time she met this guy…

There are hundreds of authors writing that exact book at the moment, many of them very badly; and when I see an instance of it, I usually move on, sometimes with an eye roll, to the next book in the hope of something I haven’t seen dozens of times before. But I was vaguely aware of the name “Tim Pratt” — I think I’ve read one or two of his short stories — and paused long enough on Heirs of Grace to get the sample and see if he wrote it well.

He wrote it very well indeed.

I was surprised, when I read the back matter, to discover that (as T.A. Pratt) he’s the author of the Marla Mason series. I stopped reading that series because it is so completely unlike this. Marla is lacking in empathy, violent, and amoral; the protagonist of this book is intensely empathetic, and her rejection of the easy, violent solution gives us an ending that I found fresh, unexpected, and extremely satisfying.

Also, there’s a mysterious magical house, and for some reason I love mysterious magical houses. There are some cool magical items, too, and the author wisely dodges the Q trap (where every single one of them turns out to be the only thing that will save James Bond at some key moment of the plot); some of them are simply cool rather than being at all useful.

I appreciated that the protagonist didn’t rush into her relationship with the man she met, and that she took the time to communicate with him about something that could have split them apart (this is lampshaded as something that would resolve practically every romantic comedy plot much more quickly, and is a thing that real adult human beings do). She makes good decisions throughout, in fact — not only good-sensible but good-morally — so the plot is not driven by her stupidity and risk-taking, meaning that when the love interest saves her it’s not infuriating.

Overall, annoying tropes are avoided or averted, the characters work well together, the protagonist’s voice is genuinely witty and amusing, and we end up in an unexpected and satisfactory place after an enjoyable ride. Heirs of Grace demonstrates that even an overused premise can still be the starting point for a fresh and well-executed story.

Published in 2014. Recent art school graduate Bekah thought she’d hit the jackpot: an unknown relative died, and she inherited a small fortune and a huge house in the mountains of North Carolina. Trey Howard, the lawyer who handled the estate, is a handsome man in his twenties and they hit it off right away—and soon become more than friends. Bekah expected a pleasant year to get her head together and have a romantic fling. Problem is, the house is full of junk…and siblings she didn’t know she had are willing to kill her for it. More important, the junk in her new house is magical, she’s surrounded by monsters, and her life seems to be in mortal peril every time she ventures into a new room. As Bekah discovers more about her mysterious benefactor and the magical world he inhabited, she’s realizes that as tough and resourceful as she is, she might just be in over her head… Heirs of Grace is a tale of family and magic, action and wonder, blending the strong heroine, cheeky humor, and dark fantasy that have become the hallmarks of Tim Pratt’s writing.