Graceling (2008) by Kristin Cashore (find it on Bookshop) is, in many ways, the fantasy novel I have been hoping to stumble upon all summer.
In the world of Graceling certain people are graced in their youth with a powerful ability. Some might call these Gracelings lucky, blessed even. But Katsa knows that her own devastating Grace of killing is more burden than blessing. Forced to do the bidding of her uncle, King of the Middluns, Katsa is dispatched to dole out tangible examples of the King’s disfavor.
Katsa lives her life apart from the rest of the court in her uncle’s castle, avoided both because of her fearsome Grace and her startling eyes–one blue and one green–that mark her as a Graceling. Though far from content, Katsa has reconciled herself to this life.
At least until she meets another Graceling, a prince called Po. Skilled in the art of combat, Po is the first worthy opponent Katsa has encountered. The prince might also be the first friend Katsa has made since her Grace first revealed itself.
Together, the two embark on an adventure the likes of which neither can imagine in search of a truth almost too diabolical to believe.
Katsa is a strong and complex character that readers are sure to adore and admire. She is also headstrong, almost to the point of absurdity. Her opinions on marriage and children are central to the plot and indeed to Katsa’s identity. Still, by the end of Graceling I couldn’t help but wonder, if two people love each other and know they want to be together, what is the harm in being married? Katsa says repeatedly that she won’t compromise her freedom by marrying anyone which is a very difficult but admirable position to take. And yet. It seems to me that loving someone at all is a compromise whether you marry them or not.
The plot itself is no less compelling. Though I was sorry to see so little of Giddon (I took an instant liking to him as a character), it was a joy to read about Katsa and Po’s blossoming relationship and to see Katsa come to terms with her Grace and the responsibility that comes with it. Cashore’s villain is stunningly diabolical and cunning–so much so that I have to admit the ending did feel anti-climactic.
Graceling is everything a reader can hope for in a fantasy. Cashore’s writing and her world building are utterly unique–the only disappointment is that I didn’t think of it myself. The book is filled with action, fights, journeys, and even some romance. The setting, like the characters, are straightforward and evocative. Lienid particularly jumped off the page with Cashore’s descriptions.
Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, White Cat by Holly Black, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, Proxy by Alex London, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, Soundless by Richelle Mead, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff, The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
7 thoughts on “Graceling: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review”
Oh I so hope to read this! Great review!
If you think Graceling is good, wait until you sink your teeth into Fire… Graceling’s companion. Though he plays a small role, Cashore’s villain is back (he is younger). And Cashore develops another believable and utterly beautiful world existing parallel to Katsa’s world. I’ve read the galley but can’t wait for the final print.
Neither can i. I just keep reading this book over and over i i cant put it down.
I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about this book from a number of people. I can’t wait to read it!
Thanks for the review : )
I’m going to play Devil’s advocate. I have to ask, “If two people love each other and want to be together, what is the point of getting married?”
Personally, I’m not a fan of the institution. In a fantasy setting such as this one, where there are no legal remifications of divorce/separation, it makes less sense to me. (Was there a religious aspect to this book? I don’t recall one and so I’m even less inclined to think of marriage as important.)
This aspect of the story made little or no impact on me so I’m having trouble recalling these elements of the story. It’s… interesting that you associate love with compromising when that is exactly how I consider marriage. Sacrifices for love seem to me almost selfish (because it makes one feel good to see the other happy), while sacrifices for marriage are almost contractual, with marriage being an act of possession and actions become a matter of duty. I think our fundamental beliefs are different here and so, different opinions.
In retrospect (it’s been a while since I read or thought in depth about this book) it wasn’t the marriage as legal institution per se but also that Katsa couldn’t even bring herself to just be with Po. I might be remembering wrong but I think Po went home and she went to her home kingdom as well and like they loved each other but couldn’t even stay together . . . And granted I’m sure Cashore already knew there was a longer story arc in the works and perhaps we will see Katsa and Po in her last book in the trilogy but I thought it was strange that two characters with this deep bond couldn’t find a way to be with each other–married or not. (Though again I might not be giving Cashore the benefit of the doubt and maybe ultimately they are?)
I’m also going to have to do some revisiting. It’s been a while. I know Po was ashamed of his blindness, but I forget exactly how it ended. They certainly had issues navigating their relationship throughout. If they reappear in Bitterblue, I hope we see how they fared once Katsa settled into her true self.