Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Premise: Some people are born with gifts. These are the Graced. Some people have the Grace of cooking amazing meals or climbing tall trees. Katsa was born with a much more sinister Grace - she kills. Employed by the king to punish those that disobey him, Katsa is an effective tool. When she meets Po, who is Graced with the ability to fight, she starts to see her situation differently and begins a quest to save an entire kingdom.
Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Length: 471 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Series or Stand-Alone: First book of 3 companion novels
Content appropriate for: grades 9+

4.5 stars

3 adjectives that describe this book: magnificent, action-packed, unique

Graceling is a novel that balances many characteristics that don't seem to fit together. The plot is both adventurous and humorous, heroic and brutal. Katsa, the main character, is both savage and gentle. Though I love fantasy adventure books, rarely do I find them to be genuinely fun. Generally, I find that books that make me laugh out loud are merely trite entertainment. Graceling turned these truths on their heads. From the opening pages I was captivated by Katsa's brutality, wit, and gender bending. 

Cashore's world-building was as thorough and seamless as her character development.  I hate romance novels, and resist anything too much like Twilight. Somehow, though, the romantic elements in Graceling were far from sappy, and added a great deal to the story. Though the plot did drag at times, Cashore avoided the pitfall that bugs me the most in YA and children's literature. The characters figured out the plot twists at almost the same time I did. I didn't have to wait 20+ pages for them to figure it out already!

Graceling was wonderfully fun. Katsa was a thrilling main character to sit with for a few hundred pages. I enjoyed every slice of her sword and punch of her fist. I don't think I'll read the follow-up companion novel, Fire, which follows a secondary character that I'm not particularly interested in. However, the second companion novel, Bitterblue, may make it onto my TBR pile since it follows another witty gender-bending character from Graceling

Update 1.21.2013:  Two friends have told me that Fire is a must read book. Apparently the sample chapter at the end of Graceling is not very representative of the actual book. My friend Sarah raved and raved about Fire so it's officially moving near the top of my TBR list.  ~ Amanda

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