Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Goodreads: Graceling
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Source: ARC

Summary: In Katsa’s world, a select few are born with Graces, an incredible skill in one area.  Unfortunately, Katsa was born with the Grace of killing, and her uncle the king uses her talents to terrify his subjects.  Then Prince Po comes to court, looking for his kidnapped grandfather, and Katsa goes on a journey with him that will change her forever.

Review:  Graceling is an extremely refreshing and innovative addition to the fantasy genre.  The story is told in a unique voice (Katsa’s thoughts mainly, though the narration is third person) that is truly half the fun of the book.  The writing is lyrical, simple, and original—and though I would love to see a movie version of this, much would be lost in the translation from text to screen.

Along the same lines, Graceling is just filled with excellent quotes, made memorable by the combination of the voice and the thoughts that it presents.  Readers may find themselves stopping often just to reread or ponder Katsa’s thoughts.  One that struck me: “When you’re a monster, she thought, you’re thanked and praised for not behaving like a monster.  She would like to refrain from cruelty and receive no admiration for it.”

The plot is exciting and contains a number of twists.  Both Katsa’s personal growth and the main action are full of surprises.  Even seasoned readers used to predicting the outcome of any novel will be hard pressed to know exactly where Graceling is heading.  The ride is certainly a pleasure.

My one reservation comes from the type of feminist philosophy presented in the book. [Minor spoilers.] Katsa is very set against marriage, convinced that it will be the end of her freedom.  Even if a husband were to let her be free, he would be allowing her freedom, so she would never actually be free.  Therefore, she refuses to marry, even if she loves someone.  Having sex with someone, however, is fine.  Apparently being so intimate with a man that way is not giving part of herself away. So, paradoxically, sex is special, but really it is not. [End spoilers]

The line between Katsa’s independence and her selfishness is sometimes blurry because of her opinions on men and marriage.  In her mind, being strong means you can never be in a committed relationship because then you might have to be bothered thinking of the other person instead of your own desires.  I personally feel that her decision at the end of the book is completely selfish and an indication that she did not really love at all.

That said, Katsa’s philosophy did not spoil my reading of the book.  In fact, I loved it. So while we may disagree on some extremely important life issues, Katsa and I would probably agree that she went on an extraordinary journey that is a story worth telling.

Published: 2008

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2 thoughts on “Graceling by Kristin Cashore

    • Briana says:

      I guess I didn’t “expect” to enjoy it only in the sense that I really had no idea what the book was about, despite all the hype surrounding it. But now I am forcing it onto all my friends because it is amazing.


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