Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

gracelingTitle: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Genre: YA fantasy
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
First line: In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.

Last week, I was complaining on Twitter that no book was holding my attention after finishing The Hunger Games. Someone (and if it was you, thanks so much – please drop a comment so I can give you credit) tweeted that I should try Graceling by Kristin Cashore. My library just happened to have it, and I picked it up the next day. It was fantastic, and grabbed me from the beginning, and saved me from the kind of reading ennui that sometimes comes over me after finishing a particularly good book.

Lady Katsa lives in the kingdom of Middluns, one of seven kingdoms, ruled by seven very different kings. She is one of the Graced, people who are set apart from normal humans by eyes of two colors and extraordinary skill. Gracelings can be skilled in singing, swimming, fighting, mind-reading, building, running, a whole plethora of talents that normal humans have, too. Their Graced condition, however, takes their particular talent to the most extreme degree, and in all but one of the seven kingdoms, makes them the property of the king, to be used at his whim and will.

Lady Katsa is Graced with killing. Her instincts, reflexes, and physical and mental abilities are honed to a keenness that makes Katsa a weapon, a weapon her Uncle, King Randa of Middluns, all too happy to use against his subjects and enemies.

To keep herself from feeling like a complete monster, and to have one thing in her life that her uncle doesn’t have control over – or even know about, Katsa has formed the Council, a group of nobles and fighters who use their skills to counter injustices in the seven kingdoms. On a mission to rescue a kidnapped Lienid man, Katsa encounters Po, a young man with a fighting Grace. He is open, cocky, and looks at her without fear, which is something Katsa never experiences. Her life is destined to be entwined with his, as they seek to discover why his grandfather had been kidnapped. Their investigation uncovers an evil that knows no bounds, an evil from which even Katsa’s Grace can’t protect her. It will take Po and Katsa’s combined skills to fight this evil, and even then, they might not be strong enough.

In her debut novel, Ms. Cashore has created a fully formed world with authentic characters that breathe on the page. I loved Katsa, Po, Raffin, Helda, Bitterblue – these characters became real to me as I read, and I cared deeply about what happened to them. Once I reached the last quarter of the book, I was annoyed by anything that interrupted my reading. I turned the last page with a sad heart, knowing that my time in this world was over, and knowing that Cashore’s next book, Fire, which comes out in October, is a prequel, rather than a continuation of Katsa’s story. According to her web site, however, she does plan a third book, Bitterblue, which will take place six years after the events in Graceling, and which will include some of the characters I came to love. There is no release date for the third book yet, though, so I will just have to be patient. In the fall, I will happily pick up the prequel, Fire, just so I can spend some more time in the world Ms. Cashore has created.

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26 Responses to Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

  1. Pingback: Mommy Brain » Links for Friday - May 15, 2009

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    Wow. If this can take your mind off The Hunger Games, then I know it must be fabulous. Is this a YA book? So you think it is appropriate for older kids?

  3. Kathy says:

    I’m so glad you found a great book to read!

  4. I almost bought this because it was on a sale table, and I thought I had read something about it in one of our Kids’ Picks carnivals at 5minutesforbooks.

    But she said it had a bit of romance, so I held off.

    What is your take? Not for me — I can handle a little romance, LOL — but for my 5th grader. She DID read the Hunger Games, as did I, and was fine with that level of intensity (and I was fine with that level of “romance” as well).

  5. Deanna says:

    I loved Graceling. My girls loved Graceling. It was a fantastic novel. I was amazed that this is the author’s first novel seeing how it was so well evolved…everything from the setting to all of the characters.
    My girls read Hunger Games and loved that book. I now need to read Hunger Games.

  6. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies

    Sandy and Jennifer – This is definitely more YA than Hunger Games – there is a physical relationship between two characters. It doesn’t get graphic or too descriptive (kind of like the honeymoon scene in Breaking Dawn, for those of you who have read it), but it is obvious what is going on. So, Jennifer, I don’t think I would recommend it for 5th grade – more like late junior high and up, depending on how particular you are about those things.

    Kathy – me, too! I hate reading slumps. πŸ™‚

    Deanna – yes, you definitely need to read Hunger Games!

  7. Ladytink_534 says:

    I’ve seriously thought of picking this up lately! It sounds like a really good one. I may have to wait until more books in the series come out because I’m pretty sure I’ll just love this!

  8. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies

    Ladytink – yes, I think you would like it. πŸ™‚

  9. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna

    Thanks for this review. I really want to read this one.

  10. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies

    Swapna – Her writing really pulls you in; you should definitely give it a try.

  11. I really want to read this book (I’m a big fan of Kristin’s blog, as I think I may have mentioned before), so I’m thrilled to hear you loved it!

  12. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies

    Avis – I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!

  13. Alaine says:

    I am amazed by the amount of fantastic Young Adult fantasy that is out there to read. I am reading Wicked Lovely and am really enjoying it.

  14. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies

    Alaine – I know – the YA fantasy/sci-fi genre is really taking off. My sister just devoured Wicked Lovely and the sequel, and she’s bringing them for me when she comes to visit next month. I can’t wait!

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  16. Lisette says:

    I HAVE got to read this book. I already have it but have not had the chance to read it yet. πŸ˜€

  17. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies

    Lisette – make sure you have lots of reading time ahead when you start it – cause it’s hard to put down!

  18. Pingback: Kristin Cashore – Graceling « Fyrefly's Book Blog

  19. Julie says:

    I read and LOVED the Hunger Games and Catching Fire, too! I loved them so much I bought them on audio to listen as I wish while driving! They absolutely affected me in so many ways.
    As for Graceling, it was an ok read but I was not as excited by this novel as I was by the Hunger Games. I was left wanting more, but the story line was good. Believe me I’m not knocking it but I just wasn’t as excited as I had hoped to be.
    I have the book “Fire” but I’m not sure about starting it yet. The Hunger Games… well I read Catching fire almost the next day… ‘Fire’ doesn’t have that drive in me.
    I’m an avid reader and have read a good 20 novels in the past 4 months. I have a few more on my plate so here’s to moving forward. πŸ™‚

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Julie – I actually enjoyed Fire more than Graceling, though I did love Graceling, too. Fire isn’t a sequel, it’s a prequel and very different, but just as well-written.

  20. D-I-E-2DAY says:

    i have to admit that i loved the book more than most others i read, it made me think about people’s talents and maybe if a had a few. this is probably one of the best books i have ever read. and by the way, i am planning on reading the hunger games because ive heard so many good things about it.

  21. sandy says:

    graceling was the best book ever. i loved katsapo bitterblu just everyone besides leck

  22. sandy says:

    i love love love graceling the best book ever romance adventure danger all i love in a book go kristina kashore

  23. zen says:

    i honesly loved this book, also. i read straight through it in one day, by the end of the book i couldn’t believe it was a book ment for girls, i think they just keep the good reading for themselves. i cant wait for bitterblue, hopfuly that comes out soon!!! πŸ˜€

  24. kristen says:

    I read this book and fell in love with it. I found it in my school library and thought it looked interesting. I am sooooo glad i checked it out!!!!!!

  25. Unknown says:

    This won’t be a movie i don’t think, it is a VERY good book but i truly don’t believe its fit to be a movie.