Author: Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary (from Barnes & Noble): 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.
My Review: Graceling is Kristin Cashore’s début novel and with it she certainly makes her presence known in the world of YA lit and fantasy. Her fantasy world is a place of corrupt kings and lords, special gifts, political intrigue, danger and love. All of these elements are expertly woven together to create a compelling story, realistic characters and setting to vivid you can practically feel the mountains. The novel’s pace is pitch-perfect, moving slowly when the situations call for it and speeding up when the elements of danger arise.
While this book has many traditional fantasy elements incorporated into it Cashore has managed to make the novel feel free and entirely new. She leaves her own stamp on this genre and it is not once that will easily be forgotten. Her writing style allows her to use each detail she drops to create the overall picture that allows readers to develop a greater understanding of the overall story.
I’m partial to novels (especially YA novels) that feature a strong female character and Katsa is one of the best I have seen, powerful, fantastic and well-rounded. Watching her evolve from King Randa’s “thug” and “personal killer” who tortures and kills on his command into a person of her own who stands and fights for what she believes in gives the readers an incredible journey to follow. From the moment she bursts on to the page she is breathtaking, daring and independent and as the story evolves so does she, exposing her vulnerability, heart and courage.
This book is an absolutely must read and I’m now finding myself anxiously awaiting the release of Bitterblue, the third installment in this “trilogy”.