From the back cover:
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…
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. This book came out in 2008 and it was always on my TBR list but I didn’t get around to it until the end of 2013. Why did I wait so long? This book is exceptional on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin.
I’m not going to bore you and recap what the book is about as I already posted the back cover blurb. I will say this is a fantasy novel I will read again and again. GRACELING is confidently and smoothly written. It’s fresh and new. The plot moves along at a great clip…not too fast, not too slow. Cashore gives the reader time to ponder the characters, the scenes as she takes you from one to the other. The reader has time to absorb the plot, the scenery, the character interactions. It’s breathtaking to not be rushed from one intense scene to the next. Never once did I feel bored or have the need to skim to get to the next exciting part. The story unfolds naturally. Exquisitely. The dialogue has a classic style about it and there is a timeless energy in Cashore’s writing style.
The characters are wonderfully engaging. Katsa is a fantastic heroine. She’s strong but not sassy. She’s far from predictable, and yet at the same time, the other characters know not to mess with her. She’s not a typical, sassy heroine. She’s a skilled fighter and has been since a young age. She is conflicted, torn between what is right and what she needs to do to survive. She’s wary, but not afraid. She’s strong but vulnerable. She has no desire to marry and she stands firm to that belief, though there is nothing to keep her from experiencing life’s pleasures. She is headstrong, not on the delicate side, and yet there are moments where the reader senses a childlike devil-may-care attitude, even aloofness that makes her endearing. She is definitely an odd mix of personality which makes her real and extremely likeable.
Katsa has a wonderful cast of supporting characters: Helda, her attendant, Oll, Raffin (her off beat, loveable cousin), and The Council, a grassroots sort of political group determined to bring fairness, honesty and peaceful leadership to the seven kingdoms of the realm. There is not one person or kingdom unnecessary in the telling of this story or what they mean to Katsa.
The biggest surprise for me was Katsa’s love interest, Po. I am so happy this is not another one of those ‘twitterpated’ love stories that makes me want to gag. Po is a prince, Graced like Katsa, in search of his grandfather who was kidnapped. But Po turns out to be so much more than a love interest. His character is so deep and the perfect match for such a strong heroine. He is the catalyst that drops the wall Katsa has built around herself. My heart is drawn to him because of his unconditional love for Katsa. It is a pure, unselfish love with no strings, no expectations. Completely and absolutely refreshing.
I was captivated and mesmerized by Cashore’s writing. I couldn’t put it down. At the end of every chapter I kept telling myself, “Just one more.”
GRACELING is a Young Adult novel and I would recommend it for readers 14 and up. For parents, you should know there are some scenes of violence and sexual intimacy, but none of them are graphic or gratuitous. I’ve read other YA books that ‘show’ so much more.
So, in closing, GRACELING is an engrossing read with mesmerizing characters, a truly satisfying romance that is far from mushy, and a plot that will hold you spellbound. Cashore knows how to weave and tell a compelling tale. GRACELING is completely worth the read and the tired, blood-shot eyes that come along with it.
Rating: 5 stars