Author: Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: October 1st 2008
Length: 471 pages (Hardcover)
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a world where people born with an extreme skill—called a Grace—are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even shedespises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.
When she first meets Prince Po, who is 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.
It has been a while since I last read a “real” fantasy book, and it was a really nice change from the sea of dystopians I’ve read lately. It’s a genre I don’t visit very often, even though I really like it. Why is that Beatrice?
Graceling takes place in a world full of castles, archery, fighting and vicious kings. Our protagonist Katsa happens to be the niece of one of those kings. She also happens to be in possesion of a peculiar gift, or a grace as they call it. The people who are born with a grace, are called gracelings (hence the title), and are usually feared by ordinary folks. Katsa is more feared than most though, which might have something to do with the fact that she has the grace of killing. All she really needs is her pinky finger….and something to kill, obviously. Vicious as her uncle is, of course, he uses Katsa to do his malicious handiwork.
That is, until one day, when she finally decides that she no longer wants to kill, chop of the fingers, or break the bones of the poor people who have the great misfortune of angering her uncle. Now, she has to leave the castle and go on an adventure along with Po, the prince of the Lienin kingdom. Somebody has kidnapped his grandfather, and both he and Katsa wants to know who did it. But what other secrets will they stumble upon on the way there?
I really liked this story. It was different, exciting, and I found myself really emotionally invested in Katsa, Po and their world. Every time a secret was revealed, I felt my heart skip a beat. There were some serious plot twists and they weren’t obvious (yes, obvious plot twists do exist). Hurray!
Still, I ask for more than a great plot when I read a book and luckily….
…I absolutely loved the characters too! The good guys, the bad guys, the guys you thought were evil but weren’t, the guys you thought were good but weren’t….you get the point ;)
Especially, I loved our protagonist Katsa :)
- I loved how straightforward she was! Nobody ain’t got no time for small talk ;)
“When she walked back into the clearing, he was awake, tying his bags together. “Would you cut my hair off, if I asked you?” He looked up, eyebrows raised.”
- I loved how practial she was. She always tried to do what was best, without involving her own emotions. This wasn’t always a good thing, but I loved watching her grow and start thinking about herself a little bit from time to time.
- I loved how badass she was. She could handle herself just fine, but as the story went on, she realized that there’s nothing wrong with relying on other people.
“She would accept his protection after all, if truly she needed it. She was not too proud to be helped by this friend.”
Katsa was very young when she realized what her grace was. This, along with how her uncle has been treating her the greater part of her life, has affected how she sees herself. When she looks in the mirror, she sees a stupid animal. Too savage to feel, to need anyone, to deserve a friend or kindness. It made me sad to read about how cold it made her, but I really liked seeing how she dealt and struggled with it.
“Katsa kept her face expressionless, so that none of them would know how much she hated this.”
“When you’re a monster, she thought, you are thanked and praised for not behaving like a monster. She would like to restrain from cruelty and receive no admiration for it.”
I also liked Katsa’s relationships with Raffin(her cousin) and Po. I was really worried for a while that there would be a love triangel between the three of them, but luckily, there wasn’t! :) She saw Raffin as a brother and their converations were hilarious.
“How long will you be? I would like to show you a couple of my new discoveries.” “I’ve been told to make myself pretty for dinner.” He grinned. “Well in that case, you’ll be ages.”
And Po. Po, Po, Po…I loved him <3
It was SO great to see how they first became friends, and then continued on from that. No instalove here! The tension grew so strong that I found myself chanting: “kiss kiss kiss kiss”, plenty of times before it finally happened. That’s the way it’s supposed to be ;).
I laughed about how much he confused Katsa. She didn’t know why she felt like she did in his presence, and therfore he made her uncomfortable. Katsa does not like to feel uncomfortable ;).
“..it was time to get him out of here, this strange person, this cat-eyed person who seemed to rattle her. She would knock those eyes out of his face the next time they fought. She would knock the hoops from his ears and the rings from his hands. It was time to get him out of here, so that she could return to her rooms and return to herself.”
Yes, I like this.
Now to the few negative things I found about this novel:
- It was a bit too long. I guess it had to be, to really tell all the details and make the reader understand, but I lost some of my interest after a couple of chapters full of wandering about in the mountains.
- The character of Bitterblue felt a bit precocious. She was supposed to be like ten, but sounded much older sometimes.
Overall, it was an amazing book with great characters, an interesting plot and a lovely cover. I am pleased and will absolutely read the next books, even though they will not be about Katsa and Po.
Some Quotes I Found Funny or Important Somehow:
“The cell guard reported to the dungeon guard, and the dungeon guard reported to the underguard. The underguard reported to the castle guard. The night guard, the king’s guard, the wall guard, and the garden guardalso reported to the castle guard.”
“It’s only water,” she said. “Tell that to a drowning man,” Giddon said.
“If there’s anyone I wish to stun at dinner, I’ll hit him in the face.”
“Tell us your sources,” Oll said, “and your sources’ sources.”
(This ↑ reminds me a lot of one of my toughest teachers)
“Katsa, do you never notice the noise you make when you burst into a room? No one flings doors open the way you do.”
“How absurd it was that in all seven kingdoms, the weakest and most vulnerable of people- girls, women- went unarmed and were thaught nothing of fighting, while the strong were trained to the highest reached of their skill.”