If you’re a fan of 2018’s Sawkill Girls, rejoice! Claire Legrand returns (at last!) to magic-tinged horror in this bloody, angry wonder of a book.
Generations have passed since the end of the world and (to our knowledge) only one fragile village remains. In Haven, women are blamed for humanity’s downfall, and a fiery gospel ritualizes their suffering in the form of four young anointed Saints. When Amity, Extasia‘s careful, prudent lead, gets her lifelong wish to join them, she hopes to bring an end to the mysterious killings befalling Haven’s men. All hell breaks loose instead.
To call Extasia a vision is only to scrape the surface of what Legrand accomplishes here. From atmosphere to suspense; eerie echo of the past to terrifying prospect for our future, this book and its world are utterly gripping. Legrand gets what makes misogynistic ideology so terrifying: not merely its capacity to breed and vindicate violence, but also the fact that the social order is built on it, and clings to it as refuge in times of terror. This is something that comes across vividly when Extasia reads like a fantasy historical, but it’s tenfold more potent in those instances where the book wields a dystopian edge––in a ritual involving the Saints that reads like an echo of 1984‘s Two Minutes Hate, in brief (but not overwhelming) touches of sci-fi, and in all the moments where witchcraft shows clairvoyance for a calamity already passed.
But this book isn’t just a satisfying experiment for lovers of all the genres it pulls from; it’s also a ruthless page turner that had me loathe to shut the cover and do anything else. Legrand makes keeping narrative pace look effortless: Amity’s shifting goals, worsening circumstances, and two beautifully-crafted forces of opposition are all excellently timed with respect to one another, and these just-under-500 pages go scarily fucking fast.
One more thing…I would go to war for this love story. Romantic subplots are a much-looked-for icing atop my very favorite cakes, and this icing is sweetened with the finest sugar around: contrast. The scenes between Amity and the spoiler-y girl in question are achingly tender, and almost heartbreakingly soft when held against the devastation around them. If a book can make me cry with a kiss, it wins ❤️
This is not the book for those who lack a taste for gore or dislike the use of religion in horror, but if you want to read about girls kissing as their world comes crashing down, wanted more to chew on from the likes of The Crucible, or find yourself in need of a healthy dose of the eldritch, you need to get Extasia read, like, yesterday.
Thank you so much for reading! Talk to me in the comments: I’m trying a shorter format for reviews every now and then, so what do you think? Also, if you’ve read this book or have recs for anything like it, be sure to let me know 💕