Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

5 Aug


Series: The Seven Kingdoms trilogy, book #1

Published: October 1st 2008 by Harcourt Children’s Books

Details: Hardcover 417 pages

My grade: 4.5/5

My summary:

Great book which is a coming-off age story about a girl Katsa and her relationship with the prince Po set in a fantasy land called the Seven Kingdoms, somewhat similar to the set of Lord of the Rings. Great read about a strong heroine with paranormal abilities and a believable love story.

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.

She lives under the command of her Uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to carry out his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. Breaking arms and cutting off fingers are her stock-in-trade. Finding life under his rule increasingly unbearable Katsa forms an underground Council, whose purpose is to combat the destructive behaviour of the seven kings – after all, the Middluns is only one of the Seven Kingdoms, each of them ruled by their own king and his personal agenda for power.

When the Council hears that the King of Liend’s father has been kidnapped Katsa investigates …and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap him, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced fighter who challenged her fighting skills, for the first time, as she and the Council rushed the old man to safety? Something dark and deadly is rising in the north and creeping across the continent, and behind it all lurks the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king …

My thoughts:

I hardly ever venture into fantasy land, The Lord of the Rings series being the one and only exception. And now that I come to think about it, it’s strange, because seeing as I devoured that series I wonder why it never occurred to me to seek out other books in that same genre?

Anyway, to cut it short, I am a novice when it comes to the fantasy genre, and so Graceling wouldn’t be my usual pick.  But as I stumbled across reviews of this book on various book blogs, I was intrigued, both by the tough heroine with paranormal abilities and of course the romance. (I’m a sucker for the latter)

So, as for the review, I can start by saying that Graceling was a page-turner. I think I read the book in about 2 days. It’s filled with action-packed adventure and a beautiful romance, but at its core it is a coming-of age story about Katsa.

The story is set in a land of seven kingdoms where some children are born graced with an extreme skill. A skill that can be anything you might think of, from trivial things like walking backwards, holding your breath, climbing trees to more advantageous graces like exceptional sword fighting or mind reading. Katsa is burdened by the grace of killing, and is naturally feared by most people. Ever since her grace was known (by accidently killing an annoying cousin) the king has been using her to perform his ill-willed tasks. In order to balance out the acts of evil she performs under the influence of the king, she has started a secret council, bent on doing good. It’s during one of their missions that we are introduced into the book.

At the start of the book, Katsa carries around a lot of anger. She’s angry to be burdened by her grace which is making her a “freak”,  lonely and feared by most people. She’s angry to be used by the king carrying out his dirty missions. More importantly, she is not entirely sure how to separate the evil acts  she performs for the king with herself. She is doubting her own “goodness” so to speak. As the story moves on she gradually comes to terms with who she really is and how to accept her grace as a part of herself.

One character that helps  her on her way to self-discovery is Po, a prince from one of the other kingdoms who sets off with Katsa to solve the mystery of the kidnapping (the council’s mission at the start of the book). Po is a wonderfully drawn character, and as he has that emotional maturity and security that Katsa lacks, he appears to be that perfect person to befriend the temperamental, angry and wild Katsa. I just loved watching the two of them getting to know each other!

Another great character is introduced halfway through the book when Katsa and Po cross paths with Bitterblue, a child princess from yet another kingdom. This is when  it starts getting really interesting, not only because the story itself heats up, but also because Bitterblue is such a likable character, strong, brave and mature, who immediately forms a strong bond with Katsa.

In short, I loved the plot which contained everything you might wish for; adventure, romance, fighting scenes, creepy villans and a tough cool heroine.

My only minor criticism is that I found the language a bit uneven. There were parts in the book where I got distracted from the story because certain paragraphs were constructed in such odd ways. The language just didn’t have that effortless flow, at least no constantly throughout the book.

Either way, it’s still a good novel with one of the most interesting heroines I’ve encountered in a while, not too unlike Katniss in Hunger Games.

Graceling is the first book in a trilogy. The third book in the series is  to be focusing on princess Bitterblue, once again involving Katsa and Po in the story.. and well, I know I’ll be running out to get my hands on that book as soon as it is released!

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6 Responses to “Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore”

  1. jenika November 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    Hi Tess
    I just started reading Graceling, I am just a few pages in but it looks very interesting and I already like the guy Katsa found while rescuing the king’s father… even if I don’t know nothing of him but he looks like a very interesting character…
    I will let you know more thoughts once I finish the book!
    🙂

  2. jenika November 1, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    now I know who is the guy Katsa met… and I like prince Po veeeery much! And I am curious about his castle on the sea… I am at the beginning of the book but I wonder what will happen next… for now it is a veeeeery interesting read!!!

    • tess November 4, 2011 at 9:29 am #

      That’s great to hear!! I liked Po very much as well, such as sweet guy. Hope you enjoy the rest of the book! 🙂

  3. jenika November 4, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    Hi Tess
    I finished the book and I enjoyed it a lot! Very nice story, good characters (all of them)(especially of course Katsa, Po and Bitterblue)(but also the secondary characters were nice too)(Po parents and brothers were interesting too)
    Thank you for making me discover this book! I saw it in library already long time ago but I was not sure I would enjoy it so I never tried it… but your review made me curious and I am happy I read it!
    🙂

    • tess November 6, 2011 at 9:33 am #

      Hi Jenika,
      Thanks, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it as much as I did!! I wasn’t sure either when I picked it up first, but it ended up being such a great read. Wonderful characters!! It seems as if Cashore is releasing her book about BitterBlue in May next year – I’ll definitely get my hands on that one 🙂
      Good as always to hear your thoughts!
      Tess

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore « After Twilight… - October 6, 2010

    […] is the second book in The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore. I devoured the first book Graceling, and for that reason was surprised that I didn’t feel as much for […]

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