Sunday, January 18, 2009

Graceling

Katsa is a young woman who lives at the court of her uncle, the ruler of the Middluns, one of the Seven Kingdoms. She is Graced, which means she possesses a talent at which she is especially gifted. Such talents can be mundane (such as exceptional skill at fishing) or politically useful, and those who have useful talents are sent to their king, to be put to use. Gracelings have eyes of two different colors, which makes them immediately recognizable to others. Katsa is an incredible fighter, and when she accidentally kills a man (who has accosted her), her uncle decides to put her to use as an enforcer, threatening and punishing those who do not follows his rules.

Katsa feels like a thug, and she begins to hate herself as much as she hates what her uncle forces her to do. She gathers her friends, though, and forms a sort of underground resistance that enables her to do positive things with her abilities. As the book opens, we find her on a mission to rescue someone who's been kidnapped, and on that mission she meets Po, a man who has a Grace to rival her own.

The two become friends, after a period of adjustment for Katsa, who is a prickly person and doesn't allow people to get very close to her. There's just something about him that gets past her defenses and makes her look at the world - and herself - in a different light. She and Po travel forth to investigate something that turns out to be a threat to all the Seven Kingdoms, and they come up against a foe so twisted and cunning that it seems impossible that they could begin to find a way to foil his plans.

I loved this book from the first chapter. Katsa is a likable, admirable heroine - strong and kind, stubborn and intelligent, but because she is an orphan brought up as a feared outsider forced to act as a thug for her borderline psychotic uncle, she has a few self-esteem issues to sort out. The characters shine in this book, and the way in which Katsa's relationship with Po unfolds is utterly delightful. The fantasy world is a fairly generic one, but the intriguing magic, well-developed characters and the taut pacing combine in a skillfully told story that turned out to be one of my favorite books of 2008. Fans of Tamora Pierce are sure to adore this book, which is apparently the first book in a series. While it has a satisfying, conclusive ending, there is no doubt that I will be ready to hear more about the adventures of Katsa, Po, and their comrades in the Seven Kingdoms.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Harcourt Books, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books: "Katsa is a strong heroine with a good head on her shoulders. She was very likable and fun to read. Her struggles seemed real and not superficial and one of the things I really liked was that she was concerned about the other girls she would meet."
Bookshelves of Doom: "In short, I adored it. It's an adventure story with spot-on character development, a super-duper romantic love story (that yes, made me cry), a survival story with lots of political intrigue and yeah, there's more."
Jen Robinson's Book Page: "Graceling has it all: an interesting premise, an action-packed, conflict-filled plot, characters and settings that feel real, and fluid, descriptive prose. I can't wait for the second book!

13 comments:

  1. I keep reading good things about this one...but the bad (good?) thing is that we have an ARC in the shop and I shouldn't take it, no no no...I shouldn't...

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  2. Ahh, I miss getting ARCs at work! I keep reading good things about this book too. May have to investigate the library! Great review, thanks!

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  3. Little voices whisper, "Valentina, take it! You'll love it! Go on..."
    :-)

    Mariel - oh, I think you'll really love this one. I hope you find a copy!

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  4. I'm so happy you loved it too. I was sad when it ended I wanted to spend more time with all the characters.

    I hope there are more soon!

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  5. I was sad when it ended, too. And I had no idea till I was finished that there were further books planned, so that was exciting to hear! I'll really be looking forward to them.

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  6. It sounds like an interesting story!

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  7. I think you'd really love this one, Ladytink!

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  8. I had my hand on this at the bookstore yesterday, and then I put it back down (hooray, willpower!). It looks so good, though... I guess I'm off to my wishlist!

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  9. I do hope you'll get the chance to read it at some point, Fyrefly. It's delightful! I find that I can exercise my will power best by not actually going into the book store in the first place! If I do, then it's simply hopeless. :op

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  10. I am intrigued.

    I have heard good things of this book and after your review...I really ought to put it on TBR list.

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  11. Hi, ibeeeg! Thanks for stopping by. I do hope you get the chance to read this one. I honestly don't think you'll be disappointed!

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  12. This sounds like another book I would really enjoy. How do you keep finding these awesome looking books I have never heard of?!?

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  13. Rhinoa - Oh, I know you will love this one! I think I simply found it among the new books that arrived at my library and brought it home because it looked promising. I was really glad I did!

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