Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: ‘Graceling’ by Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore’s best-selling, award-winning fantasy Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable yet strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace . . . and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.
(Amazon product description)

This might be the first time that I started writing my review before the book was even done.  (I listen to audio books, so I can type and listen at the same time.  Don’t worry, it’s only the epilogue.)  I am so in love with this book!  I read a lot of young adult literature, and to be honest, many of the heroines are starting to blend together.  Katsa is one who will stand out in my mind for a really long time.  She has been graced with a talent for killing--something that makes her the ideal assassin for her uncle the King.  But Katsa gets no joy from hurting others, and she views her powerful Grace as less of a gift and more of an albatross around her neck. 

The cool thing about Katsa is that she is a wonderful role model for teen girls.  Here is a character who refuses to be defined by the men in her life.  Her spirit is strong and determined; her mind is sharp; her heart is compassionate.  She’s not perfect.  She can be impulsive, aloof and a tad demanding on others who don’t have her stamina.  She also has trouble dealing with her Grace.  There is a scene early in the book where she strikes Po in anger, then immediately realizes her mistake.  It is a defining moment for her, one where she discovers the necessity of boundaries.  It felt a bit like that was the moment she stopped being a child and matured into an adult. 

Speaking of Po...

Po is a prince and a graceling in his own right.  His Grace is equally as powerful as Katsa’s, but he has been able to keep it a secret so as not to become exploited by others in the way Katsa is exploited by her uncle.  Katsa figures out Po’s secret and he makes the decision to confide in her.  The two become close friends, largely because they each understand what it’s like to be graced.  Po is more mature than Katsa, but it doesn’t take her long to catch up.  They have a beautiful relationship based on equality.  It might be one of my favorites in YA literature. 

The plot is fast-paced and filled with action.  The mystery starts with the kidnapping of Po’s grandfather and turns into a hunt for a graceling psychopath.  Lots of fun!

Overall, I give Graceling...

Plot - 5 bookmarks (my leading contender for favorite book of 2012)
Character development - 5 bookmarks
Love story - 5 bookmarks (While this is not a heavy romance, there is plenty here to get the heart racing.)
Fight scenes - 5 bookmarks
Dream cast (Otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Alexis Knapp (Katsa), Jake Able (Po), Mackenzie Foy (Bitterblue)

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