by Kristen Cashore
Publication Date: October 1st, 2008
Format Read: Kindle E-Book
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…
I read this first, oh, ages ago…seriously, it has to have been at least four years. At the time I recall I wasn’t terribly impressed, and I much preferred the prequel/sequel/companion-thing Fire. But, after rereading it, I find I’m more impressed than I was.
What Graceling is is a good, solid YA book. There’s nothing intrinsically amazing to it, I’d say, but it is a very nice book. You have a kick-ass main character (which, as you know, is very important to me), a very cute love story, cool magic, difficult politics and an evil king. I mean, really, what more can you ask for in YA?
Specifics? Well, OK.
I like Katsa as a character. She’s a hard, badass woman with a soft side that she doesn’t allow anyone to see. She is such an insane fighter she probably is going to end up on a Badass Ladies 2.0 list someday. But she’s not just a fighter…she can go without sleep, without food, she can survive anywhere and anything.
The only person who could possibly be her match is the equally strong fighter…no, make that mind-reader, because that’s what he is. I enjoyed Po’s character probably more than Katsa’s, because he’s more relatable somehow…well, vaguely. He’s certainly a good-looking guy, with a fantastic personality, and he and Katsa are absolutely adorable together. I like how he’s totally OK with her refusal to put a name to what they are, and also OK with her being the better fighter and all.
Cool magic. YES, VERY COOL. Basically, everyone who has magic has a specific skill…it doesn’t have to be flashy, either, it can be something stupid like the ability to swim like a fish, or cook really delicious food. And these people are distinguished from normal people by their eyes, which are always two different (usually strange) colors. We hear a lot about Katsa’s blue and green eyes, and Po’s gold and silver eyes, but there’s also an example of a grey-red combination.
Course, not everything is happiness and butterflies. There are several evil-ish kings, one of which is the one who’s had Katsa under his thumb for the past ten-ish years. I can talk more about evil kings and how it corresponds to the cool magic, but I really don’t want to spoil things. I appreciated seeing the scope of the kingdoms, although there wasn’t a whole lot of information granted to us, mostly because it seemed not to fit. The book is rather travel-heavy, a bit jumpy, which is both good and bad.
As I alluded to in the title, I was less than impressed with some of the attempts to make things dramatic. I mean, you’re out surviving in the wilderness–do you have to have a massive fight because of the guys magic? (Especially considering he accepted you even when he thought you had a magical skill of hurting people…) I’m also still not a huge fan of the ending. After building up this massive, terrifying enemy, it’s a little unsatisfying to have everything just go perfectly back to normal, except for one thing which SHOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED. But really, these are minor squabbles I have with the book.
I’m really glad that I chose to reread this. It was a treat to revisit and get blown away, once again, by a badass female character. I still prefer Fire, and I have yet to have the chance to read Bitterblue, but I’m sure such a solid book will result in an equally solid, possibly even wonderful, series in the end.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.