A minority of people are gifted with special abilities that are marked by mismatched eyes, these are known as the Graced. They are treated with disdain, fear and hate. Used as servants and weapons they belong to their King, having little to no freedom of their own. The seven kings are often at war with each other using Gracelings gifted with great fighting skills as their swords. The main character Katsa is one such Graceling serving her uncle King Randa. Unfortunately for her, she is gifted with the ability to kill, hence making her feared by all and used as her uncle's own personal thug.
Katsa uses her gifts for good as well; secretly creating a Council that aims to protecting the average person from the idiocy of the seven kings. She rescues the father of the Lienid king taking the interest of Prince Po from Lienid. Po is also a Graceling gifted with fighting and has one silver and one gold eye. Together they escape Katsa's uncle, searching for the truth of why the grandfather was kidnapped. However, they get more than they bargained for; discovering horrible secrets about Po's family, the Graced and the royalty of a neighbouring kingdom.
I loved the strong female character of Katsa. She is a woman who can defend herself and those she loves, survive pretty much anything and kicking butt while doing so! Bitterblue, a young princess is also a strong girl who survives a lot of physical and emotional difficulties.
It was a bit slow in the middle but the end had a good twist. It was written well with good development of the main characters, Graced abilities and the world they live in.
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.
I was interested in this book at first because of the plot; sounds pretty good doesn't it?? But quite honestly I was a little disappointed in it. There was so much that could have been done with this book, but it fell short. I think maybe a good squeal could redeem the story, but the characters didn't come to life on the page like they should in a good book. I would recommend it if you were bored and just needed something new to read.
GRACELING was a book that I much anticipated. As a fan of the old school high fantasy for YA, I was really looking forward to the title.
And some of it didn't disappoint. I love Kristin Cashore's neat twist on magic, and her world building was excellent. Everything was logical--there was an explanation behind why the magic worked in the way it did that I greatly appreciated. Clearly, Cashore paid attention to detail and worked hard to make her story realistic on every level.
On the other hand, though, I could help but feel as if, at points, Cashore was more focused on making her characters feminist than realistic. It felt forced at times, particularly near the end, and I think I would have enjoyed the story more if I felt like I was being preached to less. It's not that the feminist morals were bad--they were just too obvious and didn't seem to fit in realistically with the other characters.
I don't think that you should ignore this book because of that, however. It was a truly original work, and one I'm glad I read. And, for the record, I felt that the companion novel, FIRE, was much better written, with clearer character motivations.