Review of ‘Graceling’ by Kristin Cashore (Through the Shelf Thursday #6)

Title: Graceling
AuthorKristin Cashore
Genre: YA Fantasy
Description from Goodreads:

In a world where people born with an extreme skill – called a Grace – are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even shedespises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is 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…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Date I Finished Reading: Sometime in early 2010

My Rating: 4.5 of 5

My Review: (also on GoodreadsAmazon):

I started working on my YA novel (Maiden) in late 2008.  During all of 2009 I would go to the bookstore with my good wife on date night, strolling the aisles, looking at what was new in young-adult fiction.  I knew where my story was heading – strong female protagonist, set in another world with a medieval feel, fighting, castles and action.  Specifically, I knew that eye color was going to play a big part of the story line.

Everything in the bookstores back then was vampires, supernatural, dark…it was all the same.  Then I saw the cover for Graceling and instantly fell in love with it.  The first thought that ran through my mind, “That could be the cover to my book!”  I just HAD to read it.

I instantly fell in love with the world, the characters, and the story.  The idea that there are people that have a Graceling – an advanced skill or special ability – that were identifiable by eye color…very intriguing.

The action starts off early and the conflict is explained very well.  We know what Katsa can do, what she wants, what she doesn’t want, and inevitably, what she has to do.  The formation of the Council, to me, is a little forced, but necessary for the story moving forward.  Some of the travel scenes in the book, as they move from place to place, get weighed down and take too long.

Other than that, the story shines.  I feel like I understand Katsa and can relate to her.  Po is a fantastic character as a male hero/love interest and – I would wager – one of the best in recent YA literature.  Their relationship builds steadily and over time, it’s not forced, and the dialogue is wonderful.  One of Cashore’s gifts is that she is a wonderful writer and her personality comes out on the page.  She certainly has a unique voice!

There are many fight scenes throughout the book and Cashore handles them very well, not overly technical, helping them add to the story.  The side relationships and characters – which are few – are appropriate and add depth to the story without dragging it down.

The resolution to the book is also extremely satisfying.  We are not supposed to like Randa, her uncle King, and we don’t.  We certainly are not supposed to like the mysterious King Leck, and we don’t.  The way Katsa is allowed to overcome her own physical, emotional, and mental obstacles is real.

A great story with likable characters who overcome conflict to save the day – that’s exactly how a story is supposed to be.  But Cashore’s strong voice and ability to bring me into the story, that’s what makes this one extra special.

Have you read ‘Graceling’?  What did you think?