Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

(goodreads link)

So I’ve been re-united with my book collection after a year abroad and I’ve been rereading all my old favourites. Among these is Graceling by Kristin Cashore, a YA Fantasy novel set in a land where certain people are ‘graced’ by being extremely talented at something, like baking, hand-to-hand fighting, or even predicting the future. These gracelings can be recognised because they always have one eye a different colour from the other. Our protagonist, Katsa, was identified as having the grace of killing, and has one blue eye and one green.

I love the characterisation of Katsa. Reading Graceling is like standing under a waterfall of Katsa’s emotions, because Cashore is adept at communicating Katsa’s rage, confusion, restlessness, pain, and love. Katsa grows and changes a lot over the course of the book, in how she sees herself, how she handles her emotions, and how she builds relationships with other people. When we meet Katsa, she sees herself as a monster, and she has grown up with very few loved ones, as most people fear her for her grace. Her uncle, a king, uses her to torture and threaten people who displease him.

This is a brilliant fantasy book featuring romance, adventure and mystery.

SPOILERS AHOY

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OK. I like that Katsa doesn’t change her mind about having children, even after looking after Bitterblue. Katsa likes Bitterblue as a person, but has no interest in mothering her. I like that Katsa learns that her grace is survival and not killing because I think most of us can relate to that dawning sense of realisation that you have been listening too much to what other people think you are like, and not enough to what you know about yourself. Even when those people have good intentions, most people don’t know you as well and you know yourself, and often your loved ones will hold onto a past version of you and not realise that you have grown and changed.

Leck’s grace is the creepiest thing ever. We hear a lot more about it in later books, but I haven’t read them in a while. Still, it was interesting to see Katsa be so afraid of mind readers at the start of the book, get so angry at Po when his gift is revealed, and then face an actual mind-manipulator as the book’s villain.

Ashen is so brave even though we barely get to see her! Ladies being awesome.

I am slightly in love with Po. I don’t know how I feel about Po’s injury, because I know that blindness that is magically counteracted is kind of a trope and not one beloved of people who are actually blind. Equally his blindness in the context of his grace and the wider world of the novel means he has suffered a loss – Katsa says he has lost the ability to perceive beauty (although I think other forms of beauty exist), and he will find it more difficult to hide the nature of his gift when he has to rely on it. Perhaps it would be better if he didn’t seem so recovered at the end of the book, but equally recovery and hope is what I tend to look for at the end of a book.

Go read it and tell me your thoughts 🙂

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