In which I rave about Graceling
Christmas break = no work or school = lots of time to read = a very happy girl. Too bad I didn’t finish Kristin Cashore‘s Graceling before today, because if you have a YA fantasy fan and were looking for a good gift, I would have told you to Go! Go out and buy this book NOW! I had read Cashore’s Fire earlier this year and thought it pretty good, but not great. The story stuck with me, though, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how amazing it really is. So with Christmas break and a large chunk of uninterrupted reading time approaching, I picked up Graceling. This one, I loved from the very beginning. And now I can’t wait to read Fire again.
Fire and Graceling are companion books; Cashore wrote Graceling first, but the events of Fire take place before those of Graceling. They are both set in the same world, and there is one character overlap, but each stands on its own as a separate book.
In the world where these books take place, some people are occasionally born with special abilities — superhuman perception, fighting, meteorology, and a variety of other incredibly useful (or incredibly useless — like juggling –) skills. Others can tell they are Graced by their two different eye colors. In some lands the Graced are honored and respected, while in others, such as the kingdom where Katsa lives, the are the property of the rulers. Katsa is Graced with fighting. Able to kill an entire army before it’s even aware of the danger, she has been used as a weapon since childhood by her uncle, King Randa. But as Graceling begins, Katsa is no longer content to carry out Randa’s dirty work, and newfound courage and moral strength will soon set in motion a plan that will change Katsa’s life forever. On one of her covert missions, Katsa meets mysterious gold- and silver-eyed Po, a prince also skilled in fighting, and an unlikely friendship slowly transforms into something neither expected nor wanted. Po helps Katsa discover a secret about her Grace, while hiding one of his own; meanwhile, evil is seeping through the seven kingdoms, and Katsa and Po journey to confront a king more powerful than they can imagine.
Graceling is a book about love and sacrifice, being true to oneself, and the responsibility of power. It’s also a book about journeys — to safety across dangerous kingdoms and through the treacherous mountain pass; through adolescence and first love. Its world and characters are immediately believable and enchanting, and its relationships and story grab hold of you emotionally and don’t let go after you’ve turned the last page. Katsa is a kick-ass heroine — very welcome in the continuing Bella-craze — who is just coming to know her own strengths, weaknesses, and desires throughout the book. Along with characters that completely upset negative female stereotypes, another thing I love about this book is that, in a fairy-tale sort of world, there is no fairy-tale ending. Things have changed and events have taken place that, as in real life, can’t be wrapped up with bows and ribbons when the story ends. Part of you aches for the way things could have turned out, but the book’s message of love and hope are all the stronger for the imperfect ending. So, in a way, the ending really is perfect.
Kristin Cashore is working on her third novel, tentatively titled Bitterblue, featuring a central character from Graceling. I have no idea when it might come out, but hopefully will have a chance to review it here before it does. I can’t wait! If you read somewhere that it’s been cancelled, it hasn’t, it has just changed publishers.
Have you read Graceling? What did you think?