I had very high expectations for this book. I’ve read so many glowing reviews from people whose opinions I respect, that I was almost ready to be disa...moreI had very high expectations for this book. I’ve read so many glowing reviews from people whose opinions I respect, that I was almost ready to be disappointed by GRACELING. Thankfully, the book lived up to its hype and then some. Kristin Cashore has created a fabulous world that will be vaguely familiar to anyone who has read any high fantasy, but she has populated it with unique and wonderful characters, and made it wholly her own.
Katsa is one of the few people in the Seven Kingdoms blessed—or more accurately, cursed—with a Grace. Each Graceling has a different skill at which he or she excels, some ordinary, like swimming very fast, or being an unmatched tree-climber, others more extraordinary, like mind-reading. They are identified by their mismatched eyes, which settle sometime in their young childhood, and are considered property of their king.
Katsa is Graced with killing, and though she is King Randa’s niece, she is more widely known as his enforcer. Secretly, she helps run an underground council that helps to mitigate the more egregious abuses of power by all seven Kings, and it is in that capacity she first meets Po, a prince Graced with fighting. Katsa and Po become first sparring partners, then friends. When she becomes fed up with her role as a hired thug for her uncle, she accompanies Po on a journey to learn the truth of his grandfather’s kidnapping, and in the process, they stumble upon a conspiracy as wide as the Seven Kingdoms, and more dangerous than even a Graced killer and a Graced fighter might be able to handle.
Oh, this book! Ms. Cashore has created such a rich world, filled with three-dimensional characters. Katsa is so much more than a killer, though no one seems to see it but a handful of those people closest to her. She has a strong sense of ethics, which she must bury to do the job she feels increasingly trapped by. Po is a fabulous foil for her; he has a similar Grace, but he hasn’t let it isolate or define him. From him, Katsa learns that she doesn’t have to be what her uncle has made her, that she can choose her own path. Their romance is slow-building and sweet, and both of them stay true to themselves.
The main plot was well-done, and my heart broke for Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue over and over. The villain was deliciously evil, and the climax was oh-so-satisfying. (And the prologue of FIRE at the end? Whoa!!) Ms. Cashore’s prose was lyrical and lovely, and though the book is nearly 500 pages, I read it in just two days. This is the epitome of ‘can’t put it down.’
Overall, a solid 5 stars. I can’t wait to get my hands on FIRE, which is a prequel of sorts, and the third book, BITTERBLUE, which is a sequel. (less)
I love this book. Words cannot express the love I have for this book. Chess! Terrible!
Chess Putnam is a junkie. She pop pills, snorts powders, and smo...moreI love this book. Words cannot express the love I have for this book. Chess! Terrible!
Chess Putnam is a junkie. She pop pills, snorts powders, and smokes 'Dream' in the Downside area of Triumph City just to get her through the day. She's also a debunker for the Church of Real Truth--a mix of detective, ghost hunter, and witch. She's done her damndest to keep these two sides of her life separate, but when her drug dealer, the sleazy but shrewd Bump, wants her help to de-ghost an old airport, the two come crashing together. Throw in a strange attraction to Bump's enforcer Terrible, and their rival dealer Lex, and Chess might be in over her head.
First of all, please don't be put off by the drug use. It's graphic, but never gratuitous. It is integral to Chess's character--and character development--and it rings so very true. The world building is fantastic and very unique, and hinges on the simple premise that ghosts are real, and they are out for blood. Only the Church of Real Truth--a combination religion and government--keeps them from walking the earth and destroying humanity. Chess works as a debunker for the Church, and it's the only thing in her life that she has real pride in. She's an addict, plain and simple, and she knows it. If she lost her job, she knows her life would spiral out of her control, so when Bump blackmails her into using her magical skills for him, she can't say no.
And then there's Terrible. Oh, Terrible! We're introduced to him as Bump's enforcer--a hulking mass of a man whose face looks like someone used it as a punching bag. Bump assigns him to Chess as a combination bodyguard and keeper--but he quickly becomes more than that. Chess's relationship with Bump is really a highlight of the book--like Chess, the reader starts to understand and feel for him, without ever really forgetting that he beats people for money and has a face even a mother might not be able to love. Their interactions are so true to the voice of the characters, in all their flawed and totally fucked-up glory.
Overall, this book is a great urban fantasy novel--and a fabulous introduction to a new series. The eBook is also on sale for just $0.99!! Skip your morning coffee, and buy Unholy Ghosts--trust me, it's a lot tastier.(less)