Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
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 . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.
During college I had a default birthday/Christmas present, and that was a Barnes and Nobles or Amazon gift card. Graceling was a purchase from one of those gift cards. I read the synopsis on some review site and it captured my imagination. I needed to read it, so I did, multiple times.
Graceling happens to be one of the books in my top ten favourites. I have read it so many times that it has become warped and I know have to wait a time between this last reading and the next one, because I have it memorized by heart which tends to not make good reading.
Graceling happens to have one of the most interesting world building and characters that I have ever read. The character of Katsa, and the way relationships are approached in Cashore's books are revolutionary. It is obvious that Cashore is more forward thinking in her way of doing love stories as they are not so clean cut, and don't always end traditionally.
Katsa as a character goes through so much growth, while still being so strong to begin with. She is a character that I look up to and would love for my children to read as a good example of representing a woman. She is living in a restrictive medieval society, yet is still shown to be strong.
What I also enjoy is
the "love interest" so to say is a supporting role, rather then a
manly take over and save the day role. In fact Katsa kicks his butt several
times a day it seems (I adore their relationship).
The pacing and prose matched the story and character well in my opinion and it made it very hard to put the book down, despite its length. And somehow, although the pacing is fast, the plot takes its time and explores around the situation. There is an overall goal to the plot, yet where we end up is not where we expect and everything ends up being so much more dire than originally thought.
Katsa as a couple, and how Katsa reacts to the realization that she loves him.
Considering everything she has been through, it is not surprising that she finds
the whole idea of marriage incredibly repulsive. She is just so afraid of being
stuck and controlled and Po understands this,
which is why he offers for them to be lovers without marriage. In fact their
relationship reminds me somewhat of the relationship of Yelena and Valek from
Maria V. Snyder's Study and Glass Series.
Also, I was so happy when Katsa realized that her Grace was Survival. Of course it is Survival! It is not what everyone else made it out to be, and this pleased me so much that I remember breaking out into a huge grin when she realized it (and if any reader had any doubts, the crossing of Grella's Pass smashed them).
On the other hand there is Leck, terrible despicable Leck. He is the perfect villain and of the three books currently set in the world, the connecting factor. When he showed up at the end at
Po's castle I was scared stiff, I was so worried because
I couldn't figure out how in the world Katsa was going to get out of this. In
the end it was beautiful, because as hinted earlier in the book Leck's control
ended when the person felt that those they loved were incredibly threatened and
knew that Leck had some kind of control over them and thus create a sorta
shielded mind from him.
What I love is that he is far from on anyone's mind in the very beginning of the book, by the middle he just sounds somewhat suspicious and then we realize that he is crazy dangerous to the entire world and a sociopath.
All fantasy readers, read this book, it is an excellent piece of literature, there is a reason it has been so well received as a book. It features a strong female character filled with a lot of depth and many other characters with their own personalities, issues and secrets.