Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Graceling by Kristen Cashore

Finished: October 4, 2011

Synopsis: Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away… a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. [via goodreads]

Thoughts: Graceling did not immediately capture my attention, I’ll admit, and it took a little longer for me to read this book than others I’ve given the same rating to. I found the world building to be intriguing from the start. The idea that different people have graces, basically super human skills in whatever area they are graced, and that these people can be recognized by having two different colored eyes is awesome.

Despite the appeal of the seven kingdoms, at the beginning I had a hard time getting a reading on Katsa. Eventually I did warm up to her. Katsa is that rare heroine in YA these days. She isn’t willing to sacrifice herself for a companion and she considers herself perfectly capable of surviving on her own. While at times this made her seem a little arrogant, I thought it was rather refreshing in a world filled with YA heroines who constantly feel that they need to be saved by someone else, and consider themselves weak and helpless. Katsa doesn’t ever want to be married or have children, and she does not set these principles aside when she falls in love. I felt that Katsa’s reasons for feeling this way were well explained. If a woman doesn’t want to get married or have children that is her right, and it irritates me that in other reviews I’ve seen, people are saying that this is not so. They are surprised that Katsa didn’t change her mind when she fell in love. People cannot fathom the possibility that some women just don’t want to marry or have children. Her partner, Po, accepts Katsa’s choices and the romance in this book is built upon mutual respect, which is nothing to frown at.

I also don’t understand the claims that this book is filled with negativity toward men. There were only two “evil” men in this book and the rest of the male characters that Katsa encounters are characters who Katsa respects and admires.

King Leck’s abilities were absolutely terrifying. I thought his story felt a little incomplete once it had reached its conclusion, and that perhaps the conclusion had occurred too early in the book. Leck is a character in the prequel and companion novel “Fire” and I have to say that I am even more excited about that book than I was to read Graceling. The synopsis sounds even more unique and interesting than Graceling’s. I would definitely recommend looking into that book as well if you enjoyed this first novel in the series.


Four out of Five Coffees


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