Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

She swirled through the lot of them, kicking and kneeing and hitting, and the castle guard jumped up from his guardhouse desk, burst through the door, and ran into the fray.
“I know a Graceling when I see one.” He jabbed with his sword, and she rolled out of the way. “Let me see the colors of your eyes, boy. I’ll cut them out. Don’t think I won’t.”
It gave her some pleasure to knock him on the head with the hilt of her knife. She grabbed his hair, dragged him onto his back, and dropped a pill onto his tongue. 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. . . .
No one would think of her. Whatever the Graceling Lady Katsa might be, she was not a criminal who lurked around dark courtyards at midnight, disguised.

Read an excerpt

Katsa is one of the Gracelings–someone who has a special and feared talent. Hers is particularly dangerous, because hers is the Grace of killing. Like all Gracelings, she gives her services to her king, who uses her as a brutal way to exercise his power. To keep a part of herself, she runs underground operations to help aid those in her kingdom and those surrounding it. Her quests lead her to another Graceling named Po, and together they go off to fight a ruler whose Grace is even more deadly than her own.

I’m not usually very excited about books that are high fantasy, so it was kind of on a whim that I read this one. (And my husband read it and wanted me to.) I’m glad I did, because I did enjoy it. The characters are fantastic, the story is interesting. And the twists in the end were intriguing.

I think the Graceling concept is a great one. And I love Katsa’s struggle with how she should use her Grace. She can injure or kill just about anyone she wants, but she has to choose how she wants to use her power. I think she contrasts a lot with the villain of the story. They both have great power, but they must decide how to use it. And obviously this can parallel with things in a teenager’s life as well.

Katsa is a strong female character, which I’m a huge proponent of. The more strong young women characters we put out there, the better! However, one of my biggest problems with this book was that I felt like the author had a feminist agenda.

Katsa struggles a lot with not wanting to settle down, get married, and have a family to tie her down. She wants to be free to do what she wants. With the events that surround those issues, I feel like a major message of the book is, “Women, don’t let a man get in the way of you going out and doing what you want to do! Lovers are okay, but don’t tie yourself down or you’re doomed to never fulfill your dreams.” I felt like the book had an agenda to convince all teenage girls out there of the truth about relationships and the oppression of women, and it bugged me.

However, I would still recommend this book for having a great story. (I think I would say that I recommend it to adult readers before teen readers, though. I had trouble believing the book was YA.)

*news about graceling*

Graceling was on the New York Times Best Sellers List for 25 weeks and was recently nominated for the 2011 Young Reader’s Choice Award in the Senior category (grades 10-12).

You can find Kristin Cashore in one spot: her website. (As a recent post said, the Twitterers and Facebookers in her name are not officially her, so don’t bother to follow them.)

The UK cover is WAY sweeter than the US cover. Seriously.


About Karen Krueger

I write for teens when I'm not chasing after two cute kids. I love to sing and eat cereal (though not at the same time), and I most certainly am not a vampire because I'm addicted to sunshine.
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