From Goodreads.com: 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...
Published: October 2008
Why I Chose It: I saw this on my Goodreads feed. I was intrigued by the “Graceling” idea and definitely wanted to read about a female assassin!
I really like the idea of the “Graces.” These are special abilities, such as being able to hold your breath underwater forever, fighting really well, reading minds, etc. I loved how they were established into the culture of this world. Kings would bring the Graced to court to use their abilities to further their own kingdom and gain advantages over others. Yet instead of being revered, the Graced are often feared. I only wish that this reaction to the Graced was explained. Everyone avoids the Graced, and yet rather than being called something liked “The Cursed” they’re called “The Graced,” and there’s really no explanation as to why there’s an aversion to these people. Still, I thought it was really interesting, and I genuinely enjoyed the world created for the book.
Katsa was very enjoyable as a character. She’s a badass, capable of amazing fighting skills. But I liked her so much because of all the emotions the character had. She’s angry at the way the King takes advantage of her, she hates her own Grace, and she resents the way people treat her. She also has insecurities about herself that are subtle enough that they’re not obnoxious, but present enough to show that Katsa can really doubt herself. I definitely like Cashore’s writing for this character.
The love story was also done really well. First of all, no love triangle! Yay! But the reason I liked the love story so much is that is was complicated. It’s not an instantaneous “I’m so in love with you!” Rather, it progresses slowly at first, and it’s surrounded by a lot of other emotions. There’s confusion, and sadness, and most of all anger. Katsa can’t admit to her feelings at all because she’s angry she even has them in the first place. I loved that these other emotions were wrapped up into the love story because it’s true that love is complicated, and I really appreciated how Cashore made the love story more realistic.
There’s a “but” though. While I really enjoyed the love story, I really disliked its placement in the overall story. The first half of the book has a nice steady upbeat pace, rapidly moving from one event to the next. Yet enter the love story and everything slows right down. Katsa and her lover are supposed to be on a really important quest, and yet they’re spending time hanging out in the mountains making love. When they finally came down out of the mountains and missed an important event by literally seconds, I just wanted to yell “Are you kidding me??” So do I like the love story? Yes. Do I like how it was fit into the novel? No. The writing of both is great, and yet when put together the two don’t match up, and I thought it could have been done better.
Finally, I did like this book because it kept surprising me. Every time I thought I knew where the book was going to go the story line would shift and take me in a new direction. At times I wasn’t really sure I liked the direction changes it made, but I really enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t predictable. Although I did find some of the characters were transparent, the events were not, and I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to know what would happen next!
Overall I enjoyed reading this book. A lot of things were done really well that I could appreciate. There were some minor things that I didn’t like, and there was a lot of traveling in the book, which I don’t generally enjoy, but that didn’t deter from this being a really enjoyable read. This is a great book for a strong female lead, action, and an interesting world to read about.
Rating: 4 / 5
“They would all say, when they woke to their headaches and their shame, that the culprit had been a Graceling boy, Graced with fighting, acting alone. They would assume she was a boy, because in her plain trousers and hood she looked like one, and because when people were attacked it never occurred to anyone that it might have been a girl.” p 6
“Frightened eyes all directed at her. It was fine to eat the meals of the king’s chef, who was Graced with cooking, or send their horses to the king’s Graced horse doctor. But a girl Graced with killing? This one was not safe.” p 9
“The girl paused. Then she leaned and held her hand out to Katsa. Something welled up inside of Katsa, something she couldn’t quite name. A sort of sad gladness at this little creature who wanted to touch her. Katsa reached out and took the child’s thin fingers. ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lanie.'” p 46