Published: October 1st 2008
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Details: Hardcover 417 pages
My grade: 4/5
Great book which is a coming-off age story about a girl Katsa and her relationship with the prince Po set in a fantasy land called the Seven Kingdoms, somewhat similar to the set of Lord of the Rings. Great read about a strong heroine with paranormal abilities and a believable love story.
See my full review here:
In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a 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 carry out his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. Breaking arms and cutting off fingers are her stock-in-trade. Finding life under his rule increasingly unbearable Katsa forms an underground Council, whose purpose is to combat the destructive behaviour of the seven kings – after all, the Middluns is only one of the Seven Kingdoms, each of them ruled by their own king and his personal agenda for power.
When the Council hears that the King of Liend’s father has been kidnapped Katsa investigates …and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap him, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced fighter who challenged her fighting skills, for the first time, as she and the Council rushed the old man to safety? Something dark and deadly is rising in the north and creeping across the continent, and behind it all lurks the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king …
I hardly ever venture into fantasy land, The Lord of the Rings series being the one and only exception. And now that I come to think about it, it’s strange, because seeing as I devoured that series I wonder why it never occurred to me to seek out other books in that same genre?
Anyway, to cut it short, I am a novice when it comes to the fantasy genre, and so Graceling wouldn’t be my usual pick. But as I stumbled across reviews of this book on various book blogs, I was intrigued, both by the tough heroine with paranormal abilities and of course the romance. (I’m a sucker for the latter)
So, as for the review, I can start by saying that Graceling was a page-turner. I think I read the book in about 2 days. It’s filled with action-packed adventure and a beautiful romance, but at its core it is a coming-of age story about Katsa.
The story is set in a land of seven kingdoms where some children are born graced with an extreme skill. A skill that can be anything you might think of, from trivial things like walking backwards, holding your breath, climbing trees to more advantageous graces like exceptional sword fighting or mind reading. Katsa is burdened by the grace of killing, and is naturally feared by most people. Ever since her grace was known (by accidently killing an annoying cousin) the king has been using her to perform his ill-willed tasks. In order to balance out the acts of evil she performs under the influence of the king, she has started a secret council, bent on doing good. It’s during one of their missions that we are introduced into the book.
At the start of the book, Katsa carries around a lot of anger. She’s angry to be burdened by her grace which is making her a “freak”, lonely and feared by most people. She’s angry to be used by the king carrying out his dirty missions. More importantly, she is not entirely sure how to separate the evil acts she performs for the king with herself. She is doubting her own “goodness” so to speak. As the story moves on she gradually comes to terms with who she really is and how to accept her grace as a part of herself.
One character that helps her on her way to self-discovery is Po, a prince from one of the other kingdoms who sets off with Katsa to solve the mystery of the kidnapping (the council’s mission at the start of the book). Po is a wonderfully drawn character, and as he has that emotional maturity and security that Katsa lacks, he appears to be that perfect person to befriend the temperamental, angry and wild Katsa. I just loved watching the two of them getting to know each other!
Another great character is introduced halfway through the book when Katsa and Po cross paths with Bitterblue, a child princess from yet another kingdom. This is when it starts getting really interesting, not only because the story itself heats up, but also because Bitterblue is such a likable character, strong, brave and mature, who immediately forms a strong bond with Katsa.
In short, I loved the plot which contained everything you might wish for; adventure, romance, fighting scenes, creepy villans and a tough cool heroine.
My only minor criticism is that I found the language a bit uneven. There were parts in the book where I got distracted from the story because certain paragraphs were constructed in such odd ways. The language just didn’t have that effortless flow, at least no constantly throughout the book.
Either way, it’s still a good novel with one of the most interesting heroines I’ve encountered in a while, not too unlike Katniss in Hunger Games.
Graceling is the first book in a trilogy. The third book in the series is to be focusing on princess Bitterblue, once again involving Katsa and Po in the story.. and well, I know I’ll be running out to get my hands on that book as soon as it is released!