Brooke Shirts's Reviews > Graceling

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
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Dec 03, 2008

it was amazing
Read in November, 2008

One whumpa-whumpa of a fantasy tale in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce.

In Katsa's world, certain individuals are born with eyes that are two different colors, which indicates that they are "Graced" -- they have some supernatural skill. While many skills are harmless or useful -- cooking, tree climbing, talking backwards -- Katsa is born with the Grace of killing. Katsa's uncle, the king, raises her to be his personal thug and assassin, inflicting pain and death on his petty enemies. When Katsa reaches adolescence, she finds that she can bear this no longer, defies the King, and sets out to find freedom and right wrongs in her own way. Ho boy, this is one heckuva page-turner; I had to stay up to the wee hours of the morning to see what happened to the superbly creepy villain.

Oh, and did I mention the addition of Prince Po, who is a visitor to Katsa's court and is Graced with sword fighting? And when these two take each other on, sparks begin to leap off the pages and blind you?

What I like about Katsa is how much of a jock she is; her body demands physical activity, and when the battle sequences happen, you can literally feel her unwind and mellow out from the exertion. No wonder Catherine Gilbert Murdock (author of Dairy Queen) is given a blurb on the back of the book: Katsa and DJ Schwenk are in many ways literary cousins.

Minor Quibbles:
1. Even though Katsa's society is ostensibly based on medieval Europe (as are 95% of all fantasy novels), the characters seem to be able to acquire ice whenever they need it. Katsa pulls an ice cube out of her drink to tend another character's bruise, and there are a few times when Prince Po even says "I need to ice my shoulder." But, sure. Whatever. Perhaps there are ice floes readily available in Katsa's country.

2. There's a moment when Katsa and Po happen to wander out of the forest at the exact time and place when the villain is performing a loathesome deed. A little contrived, but again, whatever. It coulda happened!

Just one more note: my more conservative friends on GoodReads should know that there is one hazily described sex scene about halfway through. Nothing trashy, but it's there. Truthfully, I'm a little disappointed it's there, since it prevents me from recommending it to upper-middle-grade readers. Alas.
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