Even Stevens’s #CBR4 review #5: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Katsa has known since she was young that she had a Grace (a special ability and one that is marked by two different colored eyes) different from everyone else in her kingdom. Some are graced with athletic talent, others are great cooks, but Katsa’s talent has always been the ability to kill. Graced with speed and strength, there is no man, or any number of men, that can outmatch Katsa’s skills. Katsa ‘s uncle, King Randa, uses her skill set to enforce his law and punish anyone who crosses him. As a mysterious kidnapping plot is unraveled, and a stranger named Po comes into her life, Katsa’s life takes a turn and she begins to question the role she has filled for so long.
The person who recommended this book to me boldy stated “Katsa > Katniss.” As a big fan of The Hunger Games I was skeptical of this statement, but also intrigued, as there are few things I love as much as a kick ass heroine. I don’t know that I would agree that Katsa is greater than Katniss, but she is certainly worthy of being called an equal. Graceling is set in a world where Kings and kingdoms exist, and though it’s a fairly typical fantasy setting, Cashore manages to eschew most of the stereotypes of the genre. The book starts right in the middle of the action, with Katsa rescuing a kidnapped prisoner, taking down several men in the process. Cashore creates some great action scenes, but also constructs really interesting characters with depth and dimension. Katsa is by no means a mindless killer, and from the beginning questions the morality of using her Grace to harm others. I really liked that she was a strong character with an equally strong personality, but was also able to step back and consider situations and consequences. Katsa is a a believable and thoroughly enjoyable protagonist.
I was also a big fan of Cashore’s prose and storytelling. She strikes just the right note, mixing action, mystery, and relationships, but never uses a heavy hand. There is a love story, but her depiction of Katsa and Po’s relationship is balanced, with Katsa and Po being equals in all aspects, and while the relationship is important to the story, it never overwhelms it. This book is a solid mix of adventure, action, and strong characterization and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a fun, intriguing read. It is technically fantasy, but like the best stories, it transcends its genre to tell a great story about its characters and how they handle the challenges they are faced with. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Great review! I also enjoyed this book immensely and so did my oldest daughter. It was rather sad to see how many people have labelled the author a feminist just because she doesn’t have her characters get married at the end of the tale. We bought the prequel, Fire, today and are now wrestling to see who gets to read it first!
It was rather sad to see how many people have labelled the author a feminist just because she doesn’t have her characters get married at the end of the tale.
Is it rather sad because you think being labeled a feminist is a bad thing, or because it’s sad that something as standard as “not getting married” is seen as a feminist act?
I think it is sad when we have to pull out labels and stick them on things instead of accepting that women (or men) are capable of all kinds of talents and choices outside the “norm”. Readers should accept this story for what it is… brilliant, believable, rich and captivating. Why should Katsa’s choice about how she wishes to live her relationship with Po cause the author of this wonderful story to be categorized?
While it’s certainly true that we perhaps shouldn’t go around assigning labels to those who didn’t ask for them, the sad truth is that the author’s decision for her character is an unusual one, and it DOES represent a freedom of choice for women that is more representative of a feminist viewpoint than a traditional one. I agree that it’s “sad” that something like that seems to be so radical, but nonetheless, I suspect that if “feminist” wasn’t such a politicized word, this wouldn’t really be an issue.
I’m in the middle of Fire right now! I didn’t realize it wasn’t a sequel and was sorely disappointed to find there was no Katsa or Po, but so far it is pretty darn good
Let me know how the prequel is I have not gotten around to reading it!
I love “Fire” even more than “Graceling” and didn’t think it was possible, when I started the book. I’m now eagerly awaiting “Bitterblue” (an actual sequel), which should be out later in the year.
I will probably make myself very unpopular by saying this but I really didn’t like Fire. There was too much “Kristen Stewart don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” going on for me.
Graceling was great though and I would definitely be eager to check out a sequel.
I’m having the same issue with how helpless everyone is around Fire’s beauty, but I’m trying to power through it. It’s not a bad book and Fire isn’t a bad character, but so far both have definitely paled in comparison to Graceling and Katsa.