May 10, 2013

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)
Author: Kristin Cashore
Release Date: October 1st, 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Page Count: 471
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: ★★★★★
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 shedespises: 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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

Katsa lives in a world where having two different colored eyes makes you special - Graced. You could be Graced in cooking, fighting, mathematics... anything really. It just means you're ESPECIALLY good at one thing or another. Katsa? Her Grace is KILLING. Her Uncle, one of the kings in the 7 kingdom system, uses her as a mercenary, but that's not all Katsa does. She also runs this kick ass Council that protects people from the kings (her uncle included) who like doing selfish, greedy things. One day, Katsa's out on a mission for the Council and meets Po, who's Graced in fighting. One thing leads to another and they become friends who team up to figure out why the heck someone would want to kidnap Po's grandfather. Everything that happens before, during and after this point is THE BEST EVER.

Let's break this down:

As you guys may or may not know, I LOVE FANTASY. The problem? I'm always a little scared of picking up a new fantasy book because *whines* what if it's not gooooood enoooouuuugh? *end whining*. I'm so picky when it comes to fantasy. I think it's because Tamora Pierce spoiled me. But fear not, fantasy lovers, this lovely gem of a book DOES NOT disappoint.

So what did I love (besides EVERYTHING)?

First of all, I love the prose. It's very straightforward but at the same time crazy fantastical. I sometimes found the straightforward-ness of the prose a LITTLE off putting - it's a little stiff, so I can see why some people might have a hard time getting into it - but pushing through it is SO WORTH IT.

As for the whole story? It's amazingtown. The world building is stunning. Everything is made SO CLEAR in the first couple of chapters - the way the kingdoms are set up, the behavior of the kings, the concept of having a Grace... I'm never confused, not even for a second. And let's be real, there are a lot of family trees involved in this one (as occasionally happens in fantasy novels). OH AND THERE'S A MAP. GUYS I LOVE MAPS. There's even a close up of the map. So there's TWO MAPS. ONE BOOK TWO MAPS. Please may all books be like this forever and always, the end.

Okay, but not really the end. Because I still need to talk to the plot. WHAAAAAAAT. Ugh. I lovedlovedloved how this book was more than just one dramatic episode. Like, there's an overarching situation that drives the plot - Po's kidnapped grandfather - but you really get to KNOW Katsa and Po and the people in their lives. Also, there are some crazy, sick, awesome plot twists that totally ramp up the drama and brilliance of this book in a GREAT, BELIEVABLE way. I can't count the moments I had to take a break and freak out just a little bit (okay I can, it was like 5. Maybe more. Probably more).

My favorite part of the plot of this book is that it's NOT a book based around a school year and yet it unfolds over the course of a long period of time. Time isn't carefully marked, it just passes, and you totally feel it passing. AND Kristen Cashore does a brilliant job of highlighting the important bits as time passes and letting the mundane things go. AND AND, when I say Cashore highlights the important bits, you don't always KNOW they're important until they BECOME important. But not in an OBVIOUS: "OH HEY THIS IMPORTANT" way that makes you guess the ending but in a: "oh hey, in hindsight that's some pretty SICK foreshadowing!" Which makes me really happy because, well, does ANYONE like the former option?

And since I can't write a review without talking about the love interest: PO AND KATSA BE STILL MY BEATING HEART. Holy Hotcakes. Talk about a romance. They have this slow, steady build that is JUST delicious. Katsa gets a little crazy in the middle of the book over the whole thing, but given her Grace (SLIGHT SPOILERS: her Grace isn't what she (we) thinks it is at the beginning of the book), it kind of makes sense. It's not so spelled out in the book, but hey, Kristin Cashore expects you to be smart and make connections and stuff. And who doesn't love an author who expects her readers to be SMART?

Anyway, back to Po and Katsa. From the second they meet YOU KNOW. They don't know. Or rather, maybe Po does, but Katsa doesn't and watching her stubborn self get used to the idea of this relationship is just amazing. And the way they work together and grow with one another is so beautiful, especially at the end and oh my poor little heart, that ending. It gives me the feels just THINKING about it.

Also worth noting: all of the other characters in this book are also GREAT. Each one of them is super important to the plot - no one's JUST there. Because let's be real, extraneous characters are SUPER annoying and make books IMPOSSIBLE to get through. The only thing I think I could have used more of is King Leck's backstory. More on him would've been interesting but I ain't even mad, I promise.

The long and short of it?

World Building: Wonderfully fleshed out and totally imaginable.
Character Development: So these are really people Kristin Cashore wrote about, right?
Prose: Easy to follow, but maybe a little stiff. DO NOT LET THIS DETER YOU.
Would I Recommend This Book?: This is one of those books that really has something for everyone: adventure, mystery, HOT romance, action, intrigue... I don't even know what else. Everything else? Just read it, please.

Dear readers, have you read Graceling? Did you die over it as I did? And PLEASE, use that comment box below to talk to me about your Po love, because I know you didn't read this whole book without loving that man at LEAST a little. 


  1. "[W]ho doesn't love an author who expects her readers to be SMART?"


    Also, I hope you love Fire. It's my all-time favorite of Cashore's, and easily one of the best books I've read in the past 5-10 years. Just mentioning it here makes me want to go re-read it.

    1. Ooooooh well now I feel as though I MUST bump Fire up the list (because it is on it!) thanks for sharing ^_^

    Feels explosion remembering this book. Ex freaking plosion.

    1. Same happens to me when I think about it. Ugh. Book. Coma. Forget the Hangover. COMA.

  3. Have you read Fire yet? :D while it isn't Katsa and Po, I actually liked Fire even more, so I hope you get a chance to read it ;-)

    1. I HAVEN'T but I'm going to sooooon *glances at the book on my nightstand*

  4. World-building is always very important to me, especially when it comes to fantasy books (a genre I absolutely love <3) I really like the concept of being Graced. I'm so happy I bought this book awhile ago and I can't wait to read it soon!


    1. I'm SO GLAD you bought this one and I HOPE you get to it soon because it's sososososo good!!!!

  5. OMG, *dances around overcome with happiness*

    This is one of my favorite books full stop, and I am so glad you lovers it too. Her books are funny, because some people love this one and hate fire and vice versa. Some people hate both. Some people love both. All of these people often agree, so it's sort of hilarious. I'm in the Kristin Cashore is made of awesome sauce group. Join me. We nerd out over fantasy all the time.

    1. I WILL OF COURSE BE JOINING YOU BECAUSE I LOVE FANTASY. I feel like I'm just going to love all of it. ALL OF IT. But I've only read 1/3 so we shall seeeeeeeeeee.

  6. I absolutely need to read Graceling. I actually read about half of it a few years ago, but just stopped reading it for some reason. I have no idea why, because I was really enjoying it. Life just got in the way, I think.

    Great review.

    1. NONONO pick it up again!!!!! Graceling is SO worth the second shot, even if you put it down for a good reason!

  7. I started to listen to the audio book and HATED it. The narrators made me hate all of the characters. They weren't passionate about anything, it was cheesy and over the top. Every time Katsa ran away or got upset or jumped on her horse? Music. And bells. I hated it so much I got a refund from Audible. I plan on going back and reading it though, as soon as I forget what the narration sounded like.

    1. Some audiobooks just DON'T WORK, y'know? And ugh, music and bells? Bad news. But please do read it as SOON as you forget! Such an amazing book!

  8. I read Graceling in my pre-blogging days -- and I loved it! (NO surprise there, I'm sure.) It was one of those books I picked up at random in a bookstore, and I wasn't expecting to devour and love it as much as I loved the fantasy novels that I'd read prior to it (basically Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix). But I did. And the rest is history!

    (Though I still have to read Bitterblue. Oops.)

    1. NO SURPRISE INDEED FELLOW FANTASY LOVER!! Such a great book to devour. I haven't read Fire OR Bitterblue but I'm gonna do it. I AM. SOON. ^_^


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