Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Apr
04
13 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 3 stars, Fantasy

Book: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Release date: October 1, 2008
Source: Bought
Series: Graceling Realm #1
  
Summary from Goodreads: In a world where people born with an extreme skill called a Grace are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the 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 execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is 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.

Lady killers!

I have this thing with assassin stories. I love them. One of the things that drew me to this book was the promise of a girl with a special power to kill. Sign me up any day for a female main character who can kick some major ass.

The opening scene pulled me in immediately. Katsa is sneaking around in the dark, roundhouse-kicking guards to the ground, and rescuing a prisoner. Soon after, we meet Po, a mysterious boy with a fighting Grace who lets Katsa beat up on him for fun. I instantly loved both of these characters and the world they inhabited.

In Katsa’s country, her Grace is looked down upon. She is frequently shunned or feared, and her uncle, the king, manipulates and uses her to his advantage by sending her off to settle his quarrels. She’s his muscle – a thug he dispatches to get his way.

Po is a Lienid prince from across the sea, whose country doesn’t see Graces as bad things. He challenges and encourages Katsa to get over her shame and embrace her Grace. As they grow closer, Katsa learns the truth about Po’s Grace, and they both have to learn to trust each other in order to successfully reach their goals. I loved the growth of their relationship over the course of the book.

Mawwiage.

I know there have been complaints about Katsa as uber-feminist. I didn’t mind her commitment to stay unmarried, because it felt truthful to her character and experiences. I did feel that this point was beaten over our heads a few too many times, however. I also felt sorry for Katsa, because she had this concept of marriage as a loss of identity that was never reinforced by the world. I wasn’t sure if this was Katsa’s perspective that evolved from her own fears, or whether it was truly the way marriage worked in her society. Did child-free couples exist? Were there women who still had freedom and independence within their marriages, if not in Middlun then in Lienid? It was hard to know whether to root for Katsa and Po to end up together.

Questing!

The plot of the book revolves around the prisoner Katsa rescues in the opening scene – he is Po’s grandfather, and they are trying to figure out why he has been kidnapped. Katsa and Po set off to travel through the country and glean what information they can, and eventually they turn to the southeastern country of Monsea and the strange behavior happening there.

Oh. Questing.

Unfortunately, it was at this point the book lost some of its luster for me. Questing is usually one of my favorite story elements, but here it turned more Harry Potter than Lord of the Rings. First, Katsa and Po tromp through the woods finding information. Then they tromp through woods and mountains getting to Monsea. Then they tromp through more mountains trying to get out of Monsea. Then Katsa crosses the mountains, and a sea, trying to escape and plan her next move. But she doesn’t get to plan her next move, because the plot just comes to her. It felt like a lot of unnecessary walking/riding/sailing that didn’t accomplish much.

This was an enjoyable read, and I definitely recommend it to fantasy readers. I’m anxious to spend more time in the Seven Realms and explore other characters and Graces, so I’ll continue with the trilogy. 

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system



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13 Responses to “Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore”

  1. I’ve heard such good things about this book, but have been a little hesitant to try it because of the rave reviews. (I’ve noticed that if everyone gives a book 4-5 stars, I tend to hate it.) So, I really appreciate your balanced look at Graceling. I also love assassin books, and I think the concept of marriage is interesting. Definitely think I’m going to try this one out. Great review!

    • Logan says:

      I also get a little wary of all rave reviews. I liked it, I just didn’t love it. I hope you read it, because it’s still an interesting book.

  2. I actually have this one and will give it a go one of these days! It sounds solid but I imagine I will lose interest in some of the same parts you did.

  3. Eliza Tilton says:

    Bitterblue is my favorite out of all three. Po and Katsa both make an appearance in the book which rocks. Po and blue have such a great relationship.

    • Logan says:

      I’ve actually been thinking of skipping Fire and jumping straight to Bitterblue for that reason. From what I’ve heard, Fire is a companion more than a sequel, and thus not necessary to read before Bitterblue.

  4. I’m so glad you reviewed this. I have this, but keep hesitating to read it. I think the stuff that bothers you would bother me as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Awesome review. I was fine with Katsa being an uber feminist until… Lady Fire was an uber feminist. Then I didn’t quite believe it was true to her character but rather this thing… that somehow strong super women didn’t need/want marriage or children. I agree about the over-questing.

    • Logan says:

      Interesting. If a character trait bleeds into multiple characters it starts to feel like an agenda. I don’t need to be preached to!

  6. Bookworm1858 says:

    I was drawn into this book almost immediately as well, to my surprise. I really struggled with her anti-marriage stance since my parents marriage of almost 31 years has been such a blessing for me and has served as a great example of what marriage could/should be. I wanted them to marry and formalize their relationship very strongly.

    • Logan says:

      I know what you mean. I consider myself pretty open about relationships and autonomy, but even I had some issues with Katsa’s decision to start a relationship with Po when she clearly wasn’t interested in maintaining it. It was selfish and unfair to both of them.

  7. Adelaide says:

    That int’ghsis perfect for what I need. Thanks!


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