Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore is one of those books that I felt like I was on the outside of for a long time.  It was the book that everyone I knew had read and raved about but I was still on the fringe of "I'll pick it up someday".  Someday came and went and I finally got around to reading this ambitious and intriguing young adult book.

In Cashore's world Graceling is the term given to individuals bearing mismatched eyes whose lives are marked by a unique gift or talent.  These extraordinary skills - known as graces - can be anything from singing or fast running to, in the case of the story's protagonist Katsa, a talent for how to kill.  Raised under the rule of her uncle, a rather nasty king, Katsa is used for her talent but longs to escape her bonds and find a better purpose for her grace and her life. 

Where this book excels is in its originality of characters.  Even among strong female protagonists in young adult books, Katsa stands out for her independence and resilience.  She is hard and determined but not without passion and emotion.  Cashore weaves a romantic storyline into the book, which is thankfully NOT a love triangle, and Po, the male lead, also avoids being a cliche character.  He is in no way Katsa's hero or savior and comes across as her equal.  The balance of the male and female leads - both strong, smart, and interesting - was a refreshing change of pace from many other books I've encountered in the young adult fantasy genre.

I did find the pacing of the story to be a bit slow.  As much as I enjoyed learning about the world Kristin Cashore created and the unveiling of Katsa's character and her bizarre grace, I had a hard time getting into this book at the start.  Once the main action hit, there was a steady roll to the climax and denouement, but for such a long book I would have preferred better pacing throughout.

All in all, though, I'm impressed with Graceling by Kristin Cashore.  Katsa is a heroine to take note of and the supporting characters around her shine with originality.  Cashore's world is primed for further adventures and I look forward to more works by her in the future. 
Are you one of the readers who has raved about this book to me for ages?  What impressed you most about it?  Or maybe you didn't care for it?  Was the pacing an issue for you?  If you're still on the outside of the Graceling bubble, what's kept you from picking it up so far?

9 Response to "Graceling by Kristin Cashore"

  1. Sam (Tiny Library) says:
    May 26, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    I feel even more left out now as I must admit that this is the first I have ever heard of this book!

  2. Sarah says:
    May 28, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    I'm probably one of those crazy raving people you mention :) I really love Graceling. You're right, it was slow at first but I was impressed because it slowly sucked me in without me really noticing it. I love the idea of Graces - it's such a fun new twist in the fantasy genre. And I love Katsa and Po.

    If you decide to read Fire, it's also really good but it's set in the Dells, apart from the Seven Kingdoms so it's different. It's about "monsters", not Graces. I recommend it.

  3. lisa :) says:
    May 29, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Sam - It's been fairly buzzworthy in YA fantasy circles, not sure if that's quite your genre of choice, but happy to alert you to it if it sounds like your type!

    Sarah - I've heard a lot about Fire too, and thanks for the added recommendation! Though I have not read it, I did recently devour an ARC of Graceling's sequel Bitterblue (review to come), which you have to check out if you enjoy the series!

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