This Vicious Grace has large shoes to fill with comps like Serpent & Dove and The Bodyguard, which promises an air of forbidden romance with lots of yearning and it did not disappoint.

We start off meeting our main character, Alessa, as she mourns the death of her third Fonte. As a Finestra, Alessa is tasked with the insurmountable odds of using magic to defend her island against an upcoming demonic apocalypse. Only, Alessa is not like all the previous Finestras who were able to pick a Fonte and amplify their powers to successfully fend off the attack – she kills them with her touch. Alessa’s growing panic that she is an unfit Finestra is mirrored by society, and her community is slowly turning against her – naming her a fraud and calling for her death.

With enemies everywhere and attacks on her life coming from every direction, including her own circle, Alessa hires Dante, a fighter with a shady past and perceivably no alliances, as her personal bodyguard. Their temporary alliance is meant to protect Alessa until she can pick her next Fonte (and hopefully her last), but Dante opens up a well of emotions about her isolation that Alessa is not prepared for and sends her life in an unexpected direction.

Alessa is a satisfying main character who is given immense power and is wildly sheltered because of it, similar to Nadya from Wicked Saints. Sheltered and naive characters can be frustrating to read in their immaturity and their lack of self-preservation, but thankfully Alessa does not fall into that trap. She’s level-headed, communicative, and duty-bound with a healthy dose of willingness to question her title and role. While she is willing to sacrifice herself for the cause, she is not a character that runs into danger unnecessarily. This is a super hard balance to strike with a character and Thiede did it beautifully.

Alessa and Dante’s romance is one of the true highlights of This Vicious Grace and secures itself as one of our all-time-favorite romances with its mix of mutual banter, grumpiness, and an abundance of tension-filled *sighs*. Although their relationship is intense and filled with stolen glances for the majority of the book – there’s a ton of humor in their scenes as well, which is a nice way to break up the tension!

Dante quickly worked his way on our list of favorite book boyfriends, as he is the perfect mix of stoicism, barely restrained passion, and “touch her and I’ll kill you” vibe. As mentioned, Alessa is mostly naive to worldly feelings including love and lust. She gets to explore these desires with Dante which truly turns up the heat 100 percent. While this book is categorized as Young Adult and is not overly explicit, the chemistry and passion Thiede conveys is top tier.

One of the centralized themes of This Vicious Grace is “found family” and relying on others. As a Finestra, Alessa is removed from her family at a young age. When asked, she must respond that she “does not have a family, a mother, father or brother”. She’s wildly isolated and desperate for human contact and friendships. After the unfortunate deaths of her first three Fonte, Alessa breaks tradition by welcoming in the remaining potential Fonte to train with her before choosing. What develops between them starts off as weariness and maybe even hatred turns into a tentative truce between the Finestra and the Fonti and blossoms into genuine friendship. Each of the characters is distinct in their personality and adds a ton to the story.

Overall, this book is a strong start to 2022 and we can’t wait to see where the story goes!