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Book Review: Graceling August 28, 2009

Posted by Sandy in Book Reviews.
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Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

On the back cover of Graceling, you’ll read a snippet of a review comparing the book to Twilight, and of course the publisher would want to appeal to the legion of Twilight fans who are hungry for something new to read, now that Stephenie Meyers’ series is finished. If I were to compare this book to anything in the pop culture consciousness, however, I’d lean towards Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, it is a fantasy novel with a romantic vein, but this is above all a book about a young woman who is strong and independent and who wants to empower other girls to take care of themselves.

Gracelings are indentifiable by their eyes, which are of two different colors, and each Graceling has his or her own unique abilities. Some are more mundane than others–they can range from an affinity for cooking to psychic knowledge of weather patterns. Katsa’s Grace manifested itself when, at eight years old, she killed an uncle who was making inappropriate advances toward her. Since then, Katsa has been employed by another uncle, King Randa of the Midlunds, as his personal assasin and enforcer. She has trained and honed her superhuman skill for killing and maiming until she can take out an army of men on her own.

Although she is forced to deliver horrible and often unfair punishments to her uncle’s subjects, the injustices Katsa sees all around her lead her to form a secret Council that works to save victims of tyranny and abuses of all kinds. On one such mission, rescuing an elderly prince from the dungeons of a neighboring kingdom, Katsa meets a stranger who will change her life and everything she believes about herself and her Grace.

Prince Po of the island kingdom of Lienid is also Graced with fighting abilities, and he is searching for his grandfather–the same prince that Katsa helped to rescue from prison. Together, Po and Katsa seek to discover who kidnapped the elder Lienid prince and for what dark purpose.

I was thrilled to read this book, with a heroine whose strength and independent spirit does not give way at the entrance of a handsome, romantic young man. Though she doesn’t always understand it, Katsa embraces her strength, protecting others and teaching them to protect themselves. The men she allows close to her are not intimidated by her power but respect and love her for that very strength. This is a book I am very happy to recommend to young women–and young men–looking for a story full of action, adventure, and romance, with characters they can cheer for and admire.

[Note: Graceling has just been published in paperback. Fans will be eager to read Cashore’s next book, Fire, which is about different characters, but still set in Katsa’s world.]

[Note, part II: Check out Kristin Cashore’s website and blog for more information about the author and her books and books-in-progress!]

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