Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling_coverSynopsis: 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…

My thoughts: I must say, I was wary heading into this. I’m not a huge fan of authentic medieval fantasy–this probably is my first–and besides the glowing review from the neighbor I borrowed it from, most reactions I’d heard about it were mixed. But I promised I would try it, so I started. The first…maybe 40-ish pages or so, I was bored stiff. The names in Graceling are pretty weird, and there was so much introduced at the beginning, and I was getting so confused on who was who or where they lived or why I cared. I was so close to jumping ship. Then a switch flipped. To be honest, I can’t tell you what it was or why it was so effective, but all of a sudden I was in the book, I loved the book, and I just had to know what happened. I keep trying to pinpoint exactly what it was that changed my mind so drastically, but I still haven’t figured it out. I don’t really care, though, because I’m just so so so happy I decided to stick with it.

I LOVED this book. Despite struggling with the culture and language style a bit, I found myself in love with the world Kristin Cashore built. It has its own life, breathed on its own, and I admired how well the world was put together. The idea of Gracelings was so cool to me. It was enough mainstream that I felt Graceling fit within my YA obsession, but at the same time it was so refreshing and new. The pace was slower than I’m used to, I’ll admit, however I never found myself bored (after the initial 40ish pages, that is). The writing is absolutely beautiful, and the eloquence of Cashore’s descriptions and plot lines astounded me. Despite moving a little slow–really, just taking time to write the story–the plot was intriguing and suspenseful, and I found myself gasping out loud at several of the shocking revelations. It was entertaining, but deep too.

The real high point for me, though, was the characters. Oh, the characters. Katsa, our main gal here, is just the best. Seriously. It’s true she reminded me of Katniss (and not just because of the weird name) and maybe that’s part of the reason I loved her, but she really did stand on her own. And she kicked butt. I loved the psychology of being a Graceling, and the development she went through was probably my favorite part of the book. Of course, Po is also my favorite part of the book. Like his female counterpart, I loved how rounded he was, and the layers to his character were just fantastic. I really did fall in love with him. And I was totally okay with it because I didn’t feel like I was falling in love with a smoldering cardboard hottie with a nice smile and no personality. Katsa and Po were strong characters to lead what I thought was a strong novel. And the supporting characters were just as fascinating–Bitterblue and Leck being two favorites.

Also, I love how this book stands on its own. Technically there are three books in the series, but they all take place in the same world rather than necessarily having ‘sequels’. Somehow that made Graceling even more special to me, because Katsa is such a solid foundation as a character, it’s only fitting her novel can stand on its own as well.

Rated 5/5 for admirable world-building, eloquent writing, and two leads I absolutely adore.