Monday, August 10, 2009

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher, Year: Harcourt, 2008
Other Works: Fire (prequel), October '09
Flags: tenuous references
Rating: A-, or Good w/ Minor Problems
Premise: Katsa has a gift. She can kill a grown man with her bare hands and has been able to since childhood. She’s is part of that group of people called the Graced, those with special gifts no two alike. She’s a minion of the king, scaring those he wants into submission. And she’s about to make a decision that will change everything.

Graceling, Kristin Cashore’s debut novel, follows the adventures of a young girl, Katsa, who has been “graced” with fighting—to the death (always of her opponent, fortunately for her). This ability has made her a powerful asset to her king, who uses her to induce fear and loathing from his subjects. The book begins with a rescue mission, where Katsa and several of her friends save a noble from the dungeons of another kingdom. Along the way, she crosses paths with another graceling, whose gifts seem to mirror many of her own.

Katsa’s circumstances have always required her to be on her guard. As a graceling, identified by her two different colored eyes, her life is somewhat controlled by that characterization. The graced automatically become charges of the state, and, if their gifts are valuable, they are forced to serve the king for as long as he wishes. Katsa despises the king and the vicious things he makes her do. Her purpose in life fills her with sorrow. +/-

When she meets the mysterious graceling, with a gift she’s never seen, her life takes an unexpected turn. She starts a journey that will change the course of her life forever. She learns the meaning of friendship, the depths of her control, and—most of all—to trust herself.

I did have two grievances. First, I thought it was just a little bit too long. I could have done with a quicker slope from the climax to the resolution. And second, the author used the story as a strange platform to push some views about marriage and relationships that I found peculiar and slightly immature.

However, I didn’t feel as though these things took away so much from the story that I was not able to enjoy it. Cashore is a masterful storyteller, and I was carried away into her make-believe world of princes and powers and a beautiful, enchanting island. I was completely engrossed in the story, and I would recommend this book to just about anyone.

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