Graceling Review

Monday, November 17, 2014

I said I wanted to read more fantasy and I'm trying to keep my promise! I picked up Graceling by Kristin Cashore last week and I managed to finish it today. It took me a while because I found myself letting it go, but once I sat down and really got into it, it was a breeze to get through!

Taken directly from my Goodreads Review, Graceling follows Katsa, whose Grace is identified to be of killing from a young age. She is "graced" with deathly skills to kill, including stronger than average strength, speed, agility, and an ability to easily master sword fighting, archery, and wrestling. Having discovered her Grace through a tragedy at a young age, she is feared and avoided by many in court, including her uncle, King Randa. "Luckily," instead of leaving her in isolation, the King decides to put Katsa's Grace into good use and makes of her his own personal warrior, sending her off to punish lords or citizens of his land that have tried to steal from him, or commit any other fault against his rule. You would think this would make Katsa some merciful vigilante, but on the contrary, King Randa uses her power to punish those for very menial things and is described as a bully. Having always to restrain her strength and Grace from others, it isn't until she encounters another skilled Graced warrior, Po, the youngest of seven princes from the Lienid kingdom, that she's able to let her guard down and possibly make a new friend who understands what it's like to hide a big piece of yourself. But getting intertwined with Po further prompts Katsa to question herself and her Grace, making her realize if abiding by her uncle's rule after so many years is the correct thing after all.

As you can tell, a select few are born with these "Graces" that would appear at first glance to be a kind of magical blessing but in actuality are feared, revered, or cast-away based on how "useful" they can be. I thought that Cashore did a wonderful job at the world-building aspect of the story by incorporating this different fantasy element and by explaining all the seven kingdoms in a very compact, but distinct way. Yet the one thing that caught me off guard at times was the pacing. I felt as though a big chunk of the book was traveling and moving around, and when there was a climax it lacked in comparison to the build-up that was "supposed" to happen. I have to say that maybe a reason why I kept putting the book down in the beginning was that it was a bit slow; it was a lot of talk and walking around rather then things happening. Overall, I would say that the pacing is a fluctuation of slow, suddenly fast and then slow again. Some plot twists didn't really "do it" for me, especially the overall ending of the book.

Another quality that irked me a bit was Katsa's character. I admire strong, female protagonists because I think there are not enough in Young Adult novels or books in general. I usually find that female characters are described as being hardcore love-struck who become enthralled with their crushes or are on the complete opposite of the spectrum as with Katsa. She's described as hating dresses, feminine attire, her long hair, and being vehemently set on never marrying or having children. If the author was trying to send a message of strong feminist ideology and how not all women have a natural tendency toward the societal norms set up for them- like being stay at home moms or getting married- I don't think it needs to be in the manner she portrayed Katsa. Being strong and sure of yourself as a woman doesn't mean that you have to hate "girly" things or think of those feminine qualities as being troublesome; for example, Katsa cuts her hair because she thinks of it as a burden with it getting tangled up constantly. I would have liked to see something less drastic that didn't demean these feminine aspects.

I gave Graceling a 4/5 stars on Goodreads. It was an enjoyable read and a good way to dip my toes into Fantasy for the month but I wish I could have loved it instead of just liked it. This is part of a series, the Graceling Realm Series, where the next two books focus on entirely different characters. The ratings for the second book, Fire, seemed good but the ratings for the third book, Bitterblue, seemed to drop a bit. I want to eventually continue but I see no rush in it at the moment. Let me know if you've read any of these books and what you thought of them! And before I finish this post I just want to end with mentioning that I loved Po ;)

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