Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: High Fantasy (although it has been promoted as YA – I really don’t think it is…)
Summary: 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, and in her case horrifying, 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.
Thoughts: Graceling reminded me of Poison Study – only with better writing. And considering how much I loved Snyder’s book, I’d say that’s a pretty big compliment. The novel was so well crafted and, honestly, I am astounded that it is Cashore’s first book.
Katsa is a complicated character. She’s a rather tortured heroine – her killing Grace made her emotionally isolated, and was exploited by her none-to-kind uncle. On the other hand, her romantic lead Po, had his head screwed on the right way. Sure, he had some emotional baggage, but he was stable. Strong. Secure.
And for some reason, I still found him swoon-worthy. That takes serious literary mojo.
But let’s not forget: this is high fantasy. While the romance is important – the universe takes centre stage. As in all good fantasy novels, the world of Graceling is as familiar as it is magical. The kingdoms are corrupt, their leaders cruel, and the gracelings (those with magical powers) exploited. But, of course, there is good in every world.
Despite my love of the novel, it did fall short in a few respects. I felt like the main villian wasn’t at all developed – we got a lot of answers to the “what?” but none to the “why?”. But besides that minor complaint, Graceling was perfect in every way.
And by the way, Kristin Cashore? I have yet to forgive you for making me cry on the tube.
Bottom line? Brilliant, beautiful book that you will fall right into. If you are a fan of Maria V. Snyder, this is a definite must – hell, it’s a must for any reader!
(BTW, if you are looking for a book that is not a first-in-the-series, here it is! Although there is a companion novel, everything gets wrapped up in this book.)