Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms, #1)
by Kristin Cashore 

Genre: Fantasy
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
Source: purchased paperback
Age Rating: 16+

In a world where people born with an extreme skill—called a Grace—are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graces 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...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. 

My Review

  • Plot: Katsa lives in the Middluns, a country surrounded by seven other kingdoms all ruled by not-so-friendly kings. She is the thumb-breaker for her own king, Randa, who also happens to be her uncle. She is a Graced person, someone to be feared in Middluns, and with her type of Grace, she can kill anyone who tries to do her harm, no matter how many come at her at once (Come at me, bro!). She meets the prince of the island kingdom Lienid named Po, and he seems to be Graced similarly to her, so they train together. Along with Po's advice, she decides to take a chance on rebelling against King Randa, resulting in some consequences that lead her on a completely different life-path than she had ever dreamed of before.
  • Characters: Katsa is a stoic and serious teenager, someone who had very few friends growing up. She literally had an older woman servant force herself on her just to help her through puberty. She's a major tomboy and has no interest in marriage or having children. Po starts out very light-hearted and funny and trains with Katsa because he's similarly Graced. This does lead to romance, but one that takes a lot of time to develop. I love that they spend so much time becoming friends, making a case for something more realistic and awesome. I think my favorite character was Katsa's (closet-gay) cousin, Prince Raffin, who is King Randa's son. He spends most of the time with blue hair because he's kind of a wacky scientist/alchemist/apothecary type of guy and has a chemical mishap with a headache remedy. I wish he'd been in it more. He was Katsa's best friend growing up and is nothing at all like his mafia boss-type father.
  • Story: I really liked this story! It's just good—I can't even figure out exactly why. The characters are great and the world building is well developed. There's plenty of room to flesh out the characters and give them moments with each other. They grow and learn new things along the way, and nobody is the same from beginning to end, except for Prince Raffin. He stays out of Katsa's experiences and the story enough to stay the same. But, it's comforting for Katsa, in the end, to see that her best friend is still her reliable best friend. So much changes in her life and, thankfully, she ends up better off for it. You just have to read the book to find out how it happens.
  • Writing: The writing is a bit odd, but still high quality. It's an unusual style of writing with the word choice, but it's not too confusing and you get used to it. For the most part, it's normal and sort of fits in with how the people talk in this fantasy world created by the author.
  • Overall Quality: Really high. This book was, I believe, only second in popularity to The Hunger Games the year it came out (2008), although a more distant second in the YA sci-fi/fantasy category. Just note that there are a couple of sex scenes which are quickly detailed, but not so explicit as to be sleazy. I recommend older teenage readers for this book.
  • Favorite Scene/Moment: I can't even narrow down one favorite scene because I have too many. Not to mention that I'd be writing spoilers if I did, but I'll vaguely mention that I loved the scene when Katsa confronted King Randa about not wanting to be his thug he sicks on his enemies anymore and how that went down. He's a very bad, but handsome dude and I kind of like that type of villain. But, I liked how Katsa handled herself in the situation because it showed some early character growth.
  • My Score: 4.5/5 stars. (A new favorite!)


  1. I started this one (and Fire) and never ended up finishing it for some reason. I remember enjoying the writing but I don't think I really connected with Katsa. Which is strange considering I like strong female characters. I think the overly feminist tones kinda got to me.

    1. @Lan: I kind of liked the feminist tones because I can relate to Katsa, myself. It was refreshing to read about a female heroine who didn't think marriage and kids were the end-all-and-be-all of human existence.

  2. Ooh, thank you for posting this review! I've been waffling around the last few days feeling like I have "nothing" to read. Totally lame, I know! This book sounds right up my alley. I'm gonig to check it out. :)

    1. @Camille: You're welcome! Glad I've given you an idea of another book to read. There's so many I need to read, I will never feel like there's nothing to read ever again, lol.

  3. I'm glad you liked this one. I read it way back when it came out and, like Lan, wasn't overly fond of the overly feminist tones either, but I did love it...I hardly remember it, though. :( Time for a re-read I'm thinking.

    1. @Jenny: Maybe a second read might be better!


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