24 March 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Okay, I usually review a book first before I give my recommendation on it, but not this time.  Graceling was amazing.  The moment I finished the book, I logged on to Twitter and wrote "Kristin Cashore's GRACELING is one of the best books I've ever read. Quite possibly *the* best. Wow."  And that just about summarizes how much I loved reading Graceling.

Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa's Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power.

Warning:  Spoilers may follow.

For a fantasy novel, I was pleasantly surprised that Graceling was so character-driven.  Katsa is such a strong main character, and her personality is clearly expressed.  It is her actions, primarily, which drive the story.  She is a well-rounded character, with definitive likes and dislikes, ideas, and her own unique way of interacting with those around her.  From the very first page of the book, the reader is exposed to Katsa's unique and strong personality.  Of course, like anyone, Katsa has her flaws.  She is young, and still learning how to control her powers, so at times she is very impulsive.  However, these flaws just add to her depth as a main character, and provides for the reader just one of many reasons to want to keep reading Graceling.  Will Katsa overcome these fatal flaws in order to save the kingdom?  Or will they get the best of her and cause her ultimate downfall?

Another huge character component of the book is the relationship between Katsa and Po.  Unlike many relationships found in YA fiction novels, theirs seemed very real.  It was definitely not love at first sight for the two of them!  Throughout the entire novel, both characters must work to learn how to trust each other.  This is really the crux of their entire relationship.  At different times in the book, Katsa and Po learn new things about each other, and each time, one or the other of them must decide how this new information will affect their relationship.  Katsa and Po's relationship is, in fact, the overarching plot line that stretches from the very first page of Graceling to the last, and in its own way, affects every other plot point of the book.

I am not going to go in to too much more detail about Graceling here- if you want to know more, you'll just have to read the book yourself!  While it is fairly long, Graceling is not a difficult book to read and it is absolutely worth your time.

Book summary (inside dashed box) courtesy of Amazon.com.

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