Graceling [ Graceling Realm #1 ] by Kristin Cashore2
Series: Graceling Realm
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: October 1st, 2008
Rating: 3 stars
Some people in the Seven Kingdoms are born with a “Grace”, an extreme skill that manifests itself at a young age, and is marked by heterochromia. One can be graced with a multitude of different things, from cooking to dancing to mind-reading. Our heroine, Katsa, is graced with killing, and she is exploited as King Randa’s personal assassin slash torturer. Unexpectedly, she meets a graced fighter, and she cannot help but become his friend.
The world of Graceling is fascinating, and one of the strongest points of the novel, although fans of intricate worldbuilding ala George R.R. Martin are bound to be disappointed.
I found the prose to be quite lovely, and I believe Kristin Cashore is a talented author. With that said, the pacing was occasionally problematic, and I often felt that there was too much about Po and Katsa’s relationship and not enough about the actual plot. It was so relationship-driven that I sometimes felt like that was the plot itself, as opposed to saving the Seven Kingdoms from an evil king with a dangerous Grace.
There were also too many scenes with little action – scenes of riding around on horseback without anything happening. The bulk of the action, when the plot actually comes to head, ends as abruptly as it came. We spend almost no time with our villain, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s an underdeveloped villain! I just wish a few chapters of Po and Katsa’s trekking to their destination were cut in favor of expanding the actual drama and plot.
Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like Katsa and Po’s relationship. Quite the contrary, I can’t recall the last time I’ve rooted for such a functional, fluffy couple. Anytime Katsa and Po had problems, they tended to talk it out and fix it. It was so different from most young adult relationships, and I was very surprised that I was as invested as I was.
The characters were another strong point of the novel, and although Katsa and Po (and a bit of Bitterblue) are the only ones who get to be properly fleshed out, I was intrigued by even the more minor of characters. I’m excited to see more of these characters in later books.
Despite some of the shortcomings of Graceling, I still immensely enjoyed it, and I’m eager to read the rest of the trilogy. I would recommend it to anyone who reads young adult fantasy and wouldn’t be put off by the fact that Katsa wants neither marriage nor children – something I had absolutely no problem with.