Thursday, May 13, 2010

Graceling by Kristin Cashore Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Genre: YA Fantasy
Target Audience: Teens and Adults (contains violence and mild sexual themes)
Number of Pages: Hardcover - 480 pages

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 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. Katsa and Po go on a dangerous quest to uncover one of the land’s most disturbing mysteries, and learn the truth of a twisted king. - Taken from

This book owes me pages of missing homework and three hours of lost sleep.

I stayed up into the wee hours of the night to finish Graceling. This vivid novel will always remain prominent in my mind; Graceling will never melt into the blur of YA fantasy. It is the type of book that I will be quite sorry to return to the library; I have the strong desire to place it on the prized section of my bookshelf. With a flawed yet likeable ensemble of characters, a fast-paced plot, and an original concept, Graceling is one of the top five YA novels of the year. The actual idea of Gracelings is amazing; it made me jealous that I didn’t think of it first. Gracelings are gifted with a supernatural power at birth, and the sign of this power is shown by eyes of two different colors. The Graces that Gracelings can be born with can be as useless as the ability to rotate one’s entire torso, or as powerful as the ability to read minds.

The characters are one of the strongest aspects of this book. Eighteen-year-old Katsa, the main character, is a fierce heroine who defies all weak women stereotypes. It’s quite refreshing to have a female protagonist who can protect herself and those around her, opposed those stereotypical, helpless women who never engage in a battle. Katsa’s character develops beautifully, and her mental journey is centered on her humanization and finding the ability to cope with love. In the early pages of the novel, Katsa reflects upon herself:

“She knew her nature. She would recognize it if she came face-to-face with it. It would be a blue-eyed, green-eyed monster, wolflike and snarling. A vicious beast that struck out at friends in uncontrollable anger, a killer that offered itself as a vessel of the king’s fury.” – page 137

Then we have Prince Po, who is a superb character. The only personal problem I have with him is his name – Whenever I read “Po”, two other people jump into my head: Po from Kung Fu Panda, which is sort of fitting since both characters are gifted in marshal art skills, and the more dissimilar one, Po from Teletubbies*. Besides that minuscule and forgivable downfall, the author executes the romance between Katsa and Po fantastically by letting their relationship develop naturally, not at all like the annoyingly unrealistic sudden-true-love-within-twenty-four-hours romance scenarios in Twilight.

Another aspect I like about this book is the villain. The author counters Katsa’s powerful ability to kill anybody she desires by gifting the villain with an equally powerful skill, causing the plot to take many extremely interesting turns. Surprising us with unsuspected movements of the storyline, this book is not as predictable as it may seem.

Though simple and clean, in some places, Cashore’s writing bothers me. It is slightly choppy, and I would not agree with the praise on the book's back that describes her writing as “elegant, evocative prose”. Fortunatly, the dazzling plot and characters outshine her mediocre writing. On the contrary, I noticed that Cashore manages to make her description, which is often the more boring part of a book, very exciting to read, sometimes by integrating it with the action. For example:

“She couldn’t believe the coldness of this passageway over the mountains. She couldn’t believe wind couldblow so hard and so insistently, without ever easing. Every breath of this air was a blade gouging into her lungs. Her arms, her legs, her torso, especially her hands – every part of her that was not covered with fur burned with cold, as if she had thrown herself into a fire.” – page 352

Cashore describes the freezing conditions while still engaging my attention, which is part of the reason why this book is such an addicting read!

In conclusion, this novel is a rich, well-blended medley of action-packed battles, violence, mystery, suspense, romance, heroism, snappy dialogue, and superpowers. If you have not read Graceling, go get it from your library, or even better: buy it! After finishing this book, fans will ravish down its prequel, Fire, and eagerly await the release of Bitterblue.

Cover Rating: 3.5/5 - I love the sword in the background and the color scheme, and the eye reflected in the sword adds more essence. Especially after reading the book, I realize that the pretty cover is quite well done, capturing the book's charm. Though it captures the feel of this novel, I wish it was more distinguished. Something about the cover reminds me of other fantasy novels, and I probably wouldn't pick it up if I was in a bookstore.

4.5 Hoots

Source: The school library and a friendly librarian who made me take the sequel Fire too. :) 


  1. Cool blog! Thanks for the review. I've never heard one bad review about this book:D

  2. Thanks for the support! You should read this book! I just started today and it's pretty good so far :)

  3. So that is what this book is about! It looks great and I loved the review! I think I will have to read it now! If you really liked this then I think you would like a series by Maria V. Snyder the first book is called Poison Study. I got it for free, but apparently at barnes in noble it is in the adult section, which is so weird, because it is totally a YA book! Oh and not to plug my blog but, you and rita should enter my new contest! Happy ready and I thought it was amusing that you stayed up hours for this book and skipped homework, because I do the same thing:)

  4. haha Okapi is not here right now because she's at her art class, but I'm sure she would say thank you! I'll look for Poison Study when I go to the bookstore this weekend. And we'll be sure to enter your contest!!

  5. thanks for the comments :). Fire, Graceling's prequel, is every bit as good! I'd also recommend that, though it's a different story completely. Erika - I've heard great things about Poison Study, so I'm going to read it soon!

  6. Yeah there are 3 books in the series the other ones are magic study and fire study and they both deliver!

  7. Great review! I haven't read the books yet, but they are high on my list. :)

    I came trough the HOP and wanted to say HI. :)

  8. I enjoyed this book when I read it. I didn't enjoy the sequel Fire as much. I wanted more about these characters.

  9. Hi! I liked Fire, but I could never compare it to Graceling. I think it's a good stand alone novel, though I expected something more Graceling-related.

  10. I loved Graceling, and I'm so glad you did too! Katsa was so realistic and relatable and just fantastic. Fire was a little too much of the same, I would say, but I still enjoyed it--I'm excited to see what you think of it.

  11. thanks for visiting my blog from the hop :) Your blog is SUPER cute! And we have similar owls on our blogs :D
    I loved this book, nice review. I think I liked Graceling a bit more than Fire, I'm interested in what you think though. I'm now following your updates!

  12. Great review, this book has been on my TBR list for quite sometime.
    Thanks for stopping by BookSake on the blog hop!