Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Graceling", by Kristin Cashore

I loved Graceling.  When I read it last fall, I'd been wasting time with a lot of rather dull novels, and this I actually made myself ration so I could prolong the enjoyment. 

I liked the characters.  Yes, Katsa is violent, but that's part of the horrors inflicted on her by her talent (grace) and her ruthless uncle's use of it.  She does struggle to gain mastery over the violence, which is a fight many people can relate to.  I'm often annoyed by superhuman characters, but I could accept her unequaled speed and strength and resistance to the elements, because her grace explains it.  My only critcism is that Katsa's character is so well defined at the beginning, but fades a bit, turning her more normal.  It's hard to keep up such a strong personality, and she does change and grow during the course of the story, but her changing and the author's relaxing of her personality don't quite match up.

I loved Po's casual arrogance and sense of humor.  His grace is intriguing and ethically difficult, and provides for very good conflict. 

The world-building completely satisfied me, as I'm the type who thrives on pseudo-medieval settings.  The fantasy element intrigued me, but didn't drown me in mysticism.  I wasn't confused for the first thirty pages, as is the real danger of much fantasy.

The traveling went on a little long—like many other fantasy novels—but overall it was the type of book I didn't want to put down. 

I've read some negative reviews railing on the poor quality of the prose.  Though I participate in several writers' critique groups and find myself not enjoying reading as much anymore, because I tend to pick it apart, I have to admit that I didn't even notice any problems in Graceling.  I was too engrossed in the story.

My hesitation in recommending it without a warning is Katsa's firmly—almost militantly—anti-marriage philosophy.  She vehemently espouses the idea that two people can love each other more truly without the fetters of marriage.  I believe this thought-provoking stance adds to her character, but many people may object to the glorification of premarital relations in a YA novel.  Parents should be aware.

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore:  Robin Hoodish societies, believable magic, fascinating premise, tingling romance:  a great read. 

My rating:  5

See her blog or buy the book at Amazon.


  1. I have a soft spot for this book and her others ones. If you are wondering, I would recommend reading this, then Fire, then Bitterblue. Each has a different MC, but they all connect in ways that would make sense reading in that particular order.

    Ketterman Rowland & Westlund Lawyers

  2. I enjoyed Fire and Bitterblue too, but Graceling was my favorite by far.