Graceling (Seven Kingdoms Trilogy #1)

 
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Graced with Difference

Yet another book leaving me pondering what sort of supernatural/magical/fantastical power I would like to have if I was forced to choose. In Kristin Cashore’s “Graceling,” people don’t get to choose this power, they are born with it and it’s called a Grace. A Grace is an exceptional talent at a given skill. There are Graced swimmers, chefs, climbers, and for Katsa, Cashore’s main character, she is Graced with fighting. She can beat the living daylights out of anyone who messes with her, regardless of whether she’s armed or not, or facing just one foe or an army of enemies. Homegirl has got skills.

It is because of this extreme skill in certain violent things like fighting that not everyone is jazzed with people who have a Grace, known as Gracelings. Instead, most people in Cashore’s fictional seven kingdoms fear those who are supernaturally talented because their powers can be used for evil and control rather than good. Katsa feels like a leper because most people shy away from her for fear that she’ll knock ‘em into next week at the slightest annoyance. Ultimately, Katsa feels Cursed rather than Graced.

This whole book highlights the fear of difference, and I think that’s a great theme kids need to read about. Even though it’s 2012, kids are still sent messages of fear regarding race, religion, gender and sexuality. Cashore seems to be sending the message to embrace all differences and use them for positive means. Katsa may be one stellar fighter, but she uses her skills to protect the weak and defenseless. “Graceling” shows us that what may be seen as differences can also be seen as strengths, and that’s one fact that many kids would be Graced to learn.

Good Points
Fun new powers to fantasize about.
Medieval realness - Sometimes you need a good kingdom or kingdoms in turmoil.
Uncommon female protagonist whose aggressiveness is refreshing.
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Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0

Enjoyable

Here's your disclosure: I read this book in February. It is now August. Do the math.

I really liked Katsa and I REALLY liked Po. They were both interesting characters and just...lovely. Even if Katsa does have to kill and torture people. I mean...it wasn't her choice.

The story was really interesting and definitely took some turns I didn't expect. Especially towards the end? Like...total shock to me, some of what happens. I loved reading it and getting totally stumped about what would happen next.

And there is romance of the awesome variety. I really, really loved how their story ended in this book. It was different and wonderful and just...yes. All the yes. *hugs romance*

Graceling is well written, well developed, and has some epic things going on between the covers. While I didn't fall head-over-heels super-in-love like most people seem to, I did really enjoy Graceling and fully intend to read Fire and maybe read Bitterblue if I can ever get my hands on it.

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(Updated: July 19, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
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4.0

Not for me

Kristin Cashore’s Graceling was definitely a read with a very formulaic storyline but with some atypical characters. While there are elements that I truly enjoyed, I thought the storyline was fairly predictable and the adventure didn’t give enough time for the characters to truly grow as I feel the point of most adventure books should be. The main character Katsa, was interesting as a lead but could have been explored further. The premise could have also been probed a little more thoroughly.

There were a few characters, as I mentioned above, who stood out, like the main character Katsa and her companion Po. I liked that the author chose a truly independent and strong female character as the lead. I think it’s always empowering as a female to read about such individuals. So, seeing how she broke away from the typical female lead was refreshing. Her relationship with Po was also something I enjoyed. They questioned a lot of the typical male-female roles of that time period which are still valid today. For example, the idea of marriage and kids and everything they represented. I definitely admired Katsa’s individuality and her strong sense of will.

The premise of the story was something that definitely appealed to me as a reader who doesn’t read a lot of fantasy, but the delivery of the idea left something to be desired. Essentially, it was about a female who lived in this world where something called a “grace” existed. I wish this idea would have been explored a little more because it had the potential to create a very different world with problems and ideas that could still be relevant today. There were no shocking finales or plot twists that were strong enough to keep me interested which is something I definitely look for when reading fantasy. The heroine had a task that was to be carried out and she did.

Now, talking about the writing, it was something I was happy with. In all its simplicity, it was generally very descriptive and overall the details were vivid. The dialogue was, similarly, expressive and for that reason, I enjoyed reading the various conversations between the characters.

Overall, this book was not one of my favorites. That was not to say that it was terrible in any way. There were some interesting elements that could have been explored and I felt the author didn’t take advantage of its full potential. I would have loved to learn more about the Kingdoms and their history with each other and how they all connected back to our main characters. I liked the main character because of her sense of independence at a time when freedom was not celebrated for women. However, I have to admit, Katsa’s character and her relationship with Po were the only things that kept me reading.

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Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

Beautiful fantasy story, I just wish I liked Katsa more

I can see why Graceling is so well-loved by so many people. The writing is fantastic, and the world-building exquisite. I love the idea of this fantasy world where certain people have what essentially amounts to mutant powers. The notion of the different-colored eyes marking the Graced is great, as is the exploration of how the inhabitants of the different kingdoms view the Graced. In one kingdom, the Graced are honored, where in another, they are shamed. It’s a very subtle look at prejudices and stereotypes woven throughout the plot, and how those perceptions impact an individual’s self-image, and I thought it was very well done.

The plot was also lovely. I enjoyed the action, and although I’ve read several reviews that thought the pacing was slow and the length ponderous, I thought it moved rather quickly. Maybe that’s because most of the fantasy I read is adult. This book was certainly longer than a lot of YA fare, but I thought the length was justified by the story.

Po was a fantastic character. I liked him immediately. I loved that he was nuanced and flawed, and I was surprised along with Katsa when new facts were revealed about him. There are certain parts of the book where Po is not present, and while they are extremely exciting and tense, I was still slightly distracted wishing Po was there. It’s always fun when a book makes me actually miss a character when he’s not around.

I also loved the character of Princess Bitterblue, who is the focal point of one of the companion novels. While she was a child, I admired her attitude and spunk, and I enjoyed reading about her.

I did have a few issues with the book, and these were just matters of preference, not of the storytelling or the writing. I was not a huge fan of Katsa. I understood why she was the way she was, and I definitely acknowledge that she is a far cry from many of the helpless damsels in distress that are abundant in YA literature. However, her extremely guarded and untrusting nature didn’t make her a character I really enjoyed reading about. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the story that she was involved in, I just didn’t really enjoy her. And although she does exhibit some growth during the course of the book, it wasn’t enough to make me really like her by the end.

I also was a bit let down by the climax of the book (which actually occurs several chapters before the ending). It seemed kind of lacking after so much build-up. Now, I’m not entirely sure how it could have been done better or differently; I just know that after I finished reading it, my thought was, “Oh, that was it?”

However, as an overall story, Graceling excelled. And considering neither of the companion novels focus on Katsa, I’m extremely interested in reading more about this beautiful fantasy world and the amazing characters that populate it.

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Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

Best of the Seven Kingdoms

I loved this book the most because I think that it was not as boring as Bitterblue (more action) and Fire was a bit to off the topic of Graceling, and it was also very wrong with Archer. Now he was a weirdo.

I think Katsa's grace was a an awesome one. I love how the author made everyone think that she was graced with killing, and that she was a tough chick who cannot be broken. She was not though, Po got to her, and her shield dropped slowly. The grace of survival is probably one of the best things you can be graced with, as it includes killing, but only when time needs be. She also can survive the most extreme conditions in the world, which is pretty wicked. Katsa was a kick-ass character and she was a powerful women who did not think like posh women who cannot get their hands dirty. She is a lady that proves that they can be better than men, as we are.

I thought Po was overreacting near the end of the book, why would he think that Katsa would not love him anymore because he was blind (sorta). I think his brain must of been joggled around when his eyes failed on him, as he was not thinking straight at all. But other than that, I thought Po was an awesome character, who always thinks before he acts. This is one of the best traits to have, but sometimes he thinks to hard and sees everything the wrong way.

The plot was pretty good, and Leck was a great villain. He was such a good villain as no one realised that he was. No one rebelled against his rule because they were all fooled by his grace. The only one who really did was Katsa, and I thought that was perfect, as she did not join another group, and this made her even more important than what she was before.

I thought that this book was perfect, and I think this was the best of the Seven Kingdoms books. I think everyone should read this if they want to experience reading at its best.

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Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

I think this was the best of the Seven Kingdoms books

I loved this book the most because I think that it was not as boring as Bitterblue (more action) and Fire was a bit to off the topic of Graceling, and it was also very wrong with Archer. Now he was a weirdo.

I think Katsa's grace was a an awesome one. I love how the author made everyone think that she was graced with killing, and that she was a tough chick who cannot be broken. She was not though, Po got to her, and her shield dropped slowly. The grace of survival is probably one of the best things you can be graced with, as it includes killing, but only when time needs be. She also can survive the most extreme conditions in the world, which is pretty wicked. Katsa was a kick-ass character and she was a powerful women who did not think like posh women who cannot get their hands dirty. She is a lady that proves that they can be better than men, as we are.

I thought Po was overreacting near the end of the book, why would he think that Katsa would not love him anymore because he was blind (sorta). I think his brain must of been joggled around when his eyes failed on him, as he was not thinking straight at all. But other than that, I thought Po was an awesome character, who always thinks before he acts. This is one of the best traits to have, but sometimes he thinks to hard and sees everything the wrong way.

The plot was pretty good, and Leck was a great villain. He was such a good villain as no one realised that he was. No one rebelled against his rule because they were all fooled by his grace. The only one who really did was Katsa, and I thought that was perfect, as she did not join another group, and this made her even more important than what she was before.

I thought that this book was perfect, and I think this was the best of the Seven Kingdoms books. I think everyone should read this if they want to experience reading at its best.

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Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

Graceling

I read both Graceling and Fire, but I really think that Graceling was the better of the two.

I love all the characters. Katsa is an really great protagonist. She's so strong, independent and she hates being feminine, which I think is pretty great. I really like the survival Grace... sigh, I wish I had that Grace, it would be so cool, except for he reputation that she gets. I think its pretty funny how she is so good at fighting and working things out alert, and yet she has no clue about how love works.

I reckon that some people might find Katsa's anti-feminine thing and how she really has no plans of getting married or having children a little offensive or just weird, but I really liked it.

The book begins with Katsa, with her two companions, rescuing "Grandfather". Here we start getting a little taste of Katsa's extraordinary fighting skills. She successfully knocks out all of the guards, rescues Grandfather, and gets out of there without any catch. Almost. On the way out, she meets a mysterious Lienid stranger (Lienid is the where Grandfather comes from). He says he trusts her, but she is not so sure. She knocks him out anyway, because you can never be too sure.

But... back at her home, suddenly a mysterious stranger, a prince called Po, turns up. Katsa finally finds someone who's fighting skills rivals her own. And when she discovers that it is the same man she met on her first mission. Questions begin to arise in Katsa's mind. Why hasn't this man reported her? Why would someone kidnap Grandfather, an old man? How does it all connect? As Katsa begins to delve deeper into this mystery, she discovers things she would have never considered...

I won't tell you anymore, since I wouldn't want to spoil the book.

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(Updated: September 29, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

-

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Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

This book cost me so much sleep!

Christopher Hsu
Mrs. Poulsen
English 10B
March 12, 2012
Graceling Book Review
The perfect blend between mystery, romance , and supernatural powers can be found in the novel Graceling by Kristen Cashore. The mind-blowing book’s plot revolves around a Graced fighter Katsa, as well as another Graced fighter, Po. Gracelings, they are called, for they possess a Grace, or a special prowess at something. Because of a mysterious kidnapping of a harmless old man in which motives are unknown, the two fighters from different countries unite to find the truth about the causes of this kidnapping. Along with mystery, their growing affection for each other contributes to a variety of character changes of traits throughout their journey. The conversations between people in this book are fairly realistic, incorporating real life human thought processes behind the words. As the book progresses and the two grow more and more affectionate about each other, one can sense the hints of love and playfulness in between the once plain mysterious conversations. The change of traits in characters makes it even more realistic and appealing to the reader. It makes it that much more compelling. The fact that the author gives hints and little foreshadows about what is going to happen allows the reader to want to keep on reading. Another effect of foreshadowing is that it gives the reader some space for imagination, it allows them to guess what is going to happen and compare it with the actual outcome of the book. As one reads, the puzzle begins to piece together which gives a fulfilling feeling when reading. Another factor providing appeal are the humorous details hidden in the dialogue which adds seasoning to the highly suspenseful and romantic conversations. No book would be perfect without a certain amount of humor in it. One interesting part about this book that separates it from the others is that it states something insignificant about a person, but turns out to be one of the most important characteristics of the character, thus adding even more character arc which makes them more real. One last thing that I loved was that the descriptions of scenery in this book really appeals to the senses, the author does a great job painting the picture in your mind. She uses precise descriptions to make the book three dimensional. Considering all of these aspects, I give this book five stars. Personally, I think this novel attended to all of my desires in a book. The magical ratio of romance, mystery, and the supernatural was what compelled me the most. I would recommend this to teenagers like me and people interested in this genre of novels.

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Overall rating 
 
2.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
2.0
Writing Style 
 
2.0

I was hoping for so much more

Doesn't the plot sound absolutely kick-ass? Yeah, I agree. Unfortunately, the plotline overall failed to meet my expectations.

Let’s start with Katsa, though. Meet the protagonist: young, beautiful, powerful—and controlled by her cruel uncle, the king. The premise is just reaching to tug your heartstrings. And it does suck, the situation she is in, because she finds it difficult to stand up for her own self and be independent. That said, she is also one of the most clichéd characters I have ever read. Cashore tries too hard to make her unique, and in doing so, makes her completely ordinary for YA books these days. A girl who rebels against the norm, by not wanting to get married, not wanting children, hating dresses and makeup and hair, preferring practicality over beauty. Add in to that the fact that her Grace – her natural born talent – gives her the ability to kill, and you’ve got the typical, against-societal-expectations, bright, independent girl, whose main flaw, after the first third of the novel, is that she’s got a bit of a temper and that she doesn’t think she actually is all that.

Mary Sue, much?

Other than Katsa, the characters range from average to awesome. Unfortunately, two of my favorite characters, Oll, Katsa’s mentor, and Raffin, Katsa’s cousin, only show up in the first third of the novel before Katsa goes on a road trip, so to speak. Po is a great character, though, and of course, he’s in pretty much the entire book. He’s kind, but unlike a lot of the boys on YA shelves these days, he’s not a bipolar, mysterious young man whose only attraction is his sulkiness. At least, not for most of the book.

The plot was really just great, and intense. I was almost always at the edge of my seat, wanting to know what’s going to happen next… almost always. There happens to be this one stretch of pages that just goes on and on and on and on about how COLD it happens to be in this extraordinary leg of adventure of Katsa’s and it really just talks about how cold and how tired Katsa is for about twenty pages. Needless to say, it killed the suspense.

I also wasn’t a fan of the climax. After all of that traveling and worrying, the main antagonist is defeated in roughly 0.2 seconds. A little bit of a disappointment, as it sort of just happened, and it barely registered because of the lack of focus on it.

The ending was sad, but not heartbreaking. It was wrapped up cleanly and neatly, with no loose ends, so you can just stop and not read the prequel, or the sequel that is coming out later this year. It didn’t leave me any desire to read any more books by this author, unfortunately. Fortunately, I have the fortune of having friends, who highly recommended the prequel Cashore wrote to this book, Fire, which, believe it or not, I actually loved, especially compared to this bore of a book.

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