Kyle's Reviews > Graceling

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
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's review
Sep 18, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: boring, give-me-a-break, massive-dissapointment, overhyped, so-so-reviews, unique-setting
Read from January 27 to November 11, 2012

Read this and other strange reviews at Living Is Reading!



(Please disregard the original review saying I stopped at page 385. I have since gone back and finished those last 90 or so pages I had left, so this review is a review of the entire book.)

Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a novel that is quite infamous for the debate and discussion that occurs once people start talking about it. It’s a book that it appears you either love or hate, with a few people that feel in the middle about it. I tried reading Graceling back in February of this year (2012), and got over ¾ of the way through before I just threw in the towel and wrote a 2 star DNF review. Over the summer however, I made a promise to myself that I would force myself through City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, the first book I ever DNF’ed in my entire life.

At that point, I figured, why not finish more books that I had originally given up on. A lot of the books I do give up on, I get pretty far into them. One book I was 85% done with and I still gave up! So, I knew that at some point during the autumn months I would sit down and finish this book. Yesterday afternoon, I got this out of the library, and have now done just that.

So, I want to get this part out of the way since it’ll be something I want to get out there now so nobody will try to troll this review using this: I do not think this book is a misandrist book. I do not think Kristin Cashore is a misandrist. I just take issue with a lot of parts about the main character, and how she treats her love interest.

Let’s just jump straight into their relationship, yes? So, Katsa and Po are a decent couple I suppose. I mean, Po doesn’t follow Katsa around, want to kill her, or watch her sleep, which is already an improvement over a lot of YA male love interests. No, the problem in their relationship that I have isn’t Po, it’s far from it.

It’s HER.

Just to prove my point, here is an excerpt from Graceling, page 120-121 in the US hardcover for those that want to follow along:

“Isn’t it in your power to refuse?” Po asked. “How can anyone force you to do anything?”

The fire burst into her throat and choked her. “He is the king. And you’re a fool, too, if you think I have a choice in the matter.”

“But you do have a choice. He’s not the one who makes you savage. You make yourself savage, when you bend yourself to his will.”

She sprang to her feet and swung at his jaw with the side of her hand. She lessened the force of the blow only at the last instant, when she realized he hadn’t raised his arm to block her. Her hand hit his face with a sickening crack. She watched, horrified, as his chair toppled backward and his head slammed against the floor. She’d hit him hard. She knew she’d hit him hard. And he hadn’t defended himself.

She ran to him. He lay on his side, both hands over his jaw. A tear trickled from his eyes, over his fingers, and onto the floor.

- Graceling

How lovely.

Now, I know a lot of people are shippers of the Katsa-Po relationship, despite all these things, because Katsa tried to stop the blow. SHE SHOULDN’T HAVE TRIED TO HIT HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE. Sure, Katsa was sorry. Don’t abusers always say they’re sorry and they’ll never do it again? Now, Katsa never does do it again, but that doesn’t erase what she did.

I don’t give a shit if he said something she didn’t like. The truth fucking hurts, so get over yourself and move on, and don’t attack the person that’s telling you a fact. You’re Graced with the ability to kill anything - how does some man sitting on a throne control you?

Now, let’s change that passage up a little bit, and every time it says She or Katsa we’ll write He or Po and Po will become Katsa:

“Isn’t it in your power to refuse?” Katsa asked. “How can anyone force you to do anything?”

The fire burst into his throat and choked him. “He is the king. And you’re a fool, too, if you think I have a choice in the matter.”

“But you do have a choice. He’s not the one who makes you savage. You make yourself savage, when you bend yourself to his will.”

He sprang to his feet and swung at her jaw with the side of his hand. He lessened the force of the blow only at the last instant, when he realized she hadn’t raised her arm to block him. His hand hit her face with a sickening crack. He watched, horrified, as her chair toppled backward and her head slammed against the floor. He’d hit her hard. He knew he’d hit her hard. And she hadn’t defended herself.

He ran to her. She lay on her side, both hands over her jaw. A tear trickled from his eyes, over his fingers, and onto the floor.

Now, do you want to know what the reaction would be to Po’s character if it had been this way?


Now, here is my response:


Abuse is abuse. A man can abuse a woman, and a woman can abuse a man. It’s a complete double standard that only a man can physically abuse a woman, and it is real amongst a lot of the people I have to be around in everyday life. This is what a lot of girls I know say as an excuse to hit a boy:

Boys can’t hit girls, but girls can hit boys!

No, you stupid idiot. The saying goes both ways. Boys shouldn’t hit girls, and girls shouldn’t hit boys. Just keep your fucking hands to yourself!

So, I cannot possibly back the Katsa-Po pairing with this kind of bullshit happening. I wouldn’t accept it if a male did it to a female, I won’t accept it when a female does it to a male.

Now, I didn’t like other parts of Katsa either. Aside from lashing out when she hears something she doesn’t like, she is also inconsiderate of animals, and she’s even called out for it towards the end of the book, but she just brushes it off.

Listen you selfish little jerk (see, I can be nice sometimes), that horse can throw you onto your ass in two seconds. Maybe you should treat it with more respect, as well as other people in your life.

Now, there are some admirable traits about Katsa that I do like. She has a non-traditional approach to romance, won’t ever marry or have children. I have no problem with that, and I think it’s kind of brave for Cashore to take that approach for a female heroine. However I feel like she brought it up too much. I think she should’ve just said it one time and it would’ve been effective enough, but it almost felt like she was making it a point that Katsa would never marry by having her tell people over and over again, almost as if she wanted it to be more scandalous than it really was.

Plus, she is a kick-ass killer warrior, and that’s always nice.

I would’ve appreciated more than just three strong female characters considering the fact that there are seven kingdoms in this universe, and there are more than three strong females in the seven continents in our world, so I’m not buying this whole “the men own the women” bullcrap.

I do like Po and Bitterblue and Skye. More like loved them, and would’ve preferred the book be about them instead of Katsa. I liked their personalities and their will to fight, and I was so upset by what happened to Po at the end. Completely unfair.

I love Cashore’s writing, and her world-building. Feel like I understand this world pretty well, even if I have read more complex fantasy worlds (I would direct you to The Queen’s Thief series). I was really starting to get into the book towards its climax, but at least I got into it at all.

Pacing was too sluggish. At times it would pick up, but then it would slow down . . . a lot.

Overall I didn’t really connect to well to our main lead character or the romance, and the pacing was too all over the place. I do like it a bit better now that I’ve finished it, and will at least read Fire, and probably Bitterblue since I loved her so much in this book.


(view spoiler)
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Quotes Kyle Liked

Kristin Cashore
“When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?”
Kristin Cashore, Graceling

Reading Progress

01/29/2012 page 93
20.0% "Still not sure how I feel about this. I just know I don't like Katsa, but I like the world-building."
02/04/2012 page 103
22.0% "Now I'm going to try and give this one my full attention. . . ."
02/04/2012 page 121
26.0% "Really Katsa? Was that nessecary?"
02/04/2012 page 168
36.0% "I'm liking it a little bit better. . . . (why am I adding so many status updates for this book?!)" 2 comments
02/04/2012 page 278
59.0% "Why is this book so long?"
11/10/2012 page 383
81.0% "I've decided to just go back and finish this."
11/10/2012 page 406
86.0% "I'm getting slightly more interested." 2 comments
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Tatiana I have doubts you will enjoy the following books, to be honest. Graceling is the least boring of the three.

Kyle Yes, I have seen your reviews. They don't sound to be very enjoyable. Hopefully I'll be able to enjoy some of her later works, because it does seem like she has a lot of potential.

message 3: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I made it to page 96 and put it down. I keep meaning to go back to it because I know so many people like it, but from my 96 pages, I also thought it moved kind of slow. There was a lot of world-building info crammed into the beginning.

Kyle It does get more into the adventure aspect the further you get in, once they figure out who kidnapped Po's grandfather (whoops, typo in my review, said it was his uncle), but then I didn't care enough to read the rest, and just read what happened to Po, and how the main conflict got resolved.

Steph Fire is very feminine - so I don't think Cashore thinks that in order to be a strong woman you have to deny that. Katsa also spent her whole life being used and controlled by men, so her relationship with Po was affected and she was overly paranoid, causing her to be not as kind to him as she could have been. I see why her character was that way but I did have a hard time with it too. Especially when she used force against him in anger. The other two books are led by very different ladies but I do think that if you found this boring you will probably think the same about them. Cashore's storytelling is very slow and I think she definitely has issues with pacing.

Kyle Yes, looking back on it after I originally DNF'ed this I can see why Katsa was the way she was. Really what made me go crazy was a scene about 100 pages in when she punches Po so hard that he falls over. If my memory serves me well it was that Katsa was offended by something Po had said or done, and she lashed out, and I just found that to be completely wrong, and it sort of completely ruined any chance they had of me rooting for them as a couple. Also with the whole lack of commitment issue, since I find that completely unfair for Po.

Well, I'll probably give Fire a chance, since a lot of people seem to really love that one. I just hope the relationship dynamic meshes better with me than Katsa and Po. :/

Steph I hated that scene with Katsa too. Not ok.

Oh, Fire and Brigan are a way different couple. Kinder and calmer.

message 8: by Anna (last edited Nov 10, 2012 05:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna Po tells Katsa that it's King Randa who makes her savage, and she lashes out physically, though as soon as she sees that Po's not going to fight back in any way, she takes back as much momentum as she can. Then she feels terrible about it.


(Depiction is not endorsement. Depiction is not endorsement. Depiction is not endorsement. Even when it's the protagonist.)

Stephanie, I think you're forgetting (view spoiler). Obviously, I'll be the last person to impugn Fire & Brigan's relationship in any way (because perfect, duh), but I do think it's interesting to think about why we might hold Katsa to an apparently higher standard than we do Brigan.

Kyle Good point about Katsa trying to pull back. Well, if there's anything this series does, it's perfect debate and discussion material!

message 10: by Anna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna Also, the mutually agreed upon "lack of [formal] commitment" between Katsa and Po is completely unfair to Po? He's not being pressured into anything, and he demonstrably understands and respects the reasons that Katsa doesn't want to tie herself to anyone other than herself. The only thing unfair to Po is claiming the high ground of, "You may think the dynamic of this relationship is OK, but Katsa shouldn't have lumped you in with nearly every other man in her life, all of whom have attempted to control her in some way or another, and you deserve better than that, because clearly the only option is to be fully trusted from the get go or to be a whipped doormat."


message 11: by Kyle (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kyle Also another good point! Guess it just depends upon interpretation.

message 12: by Anna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna And your level of comfort with judging the dynamics other people's relationships, regardless of whether or not what they're doing is what you can see yourself doing.

But yes, interpretation, etc.

Steph Jesus, Anna, every time. I'm on your side here.

I don't agree with Katsa hitting Po in the face and I won't. I don't treat it as a failing on Cashore's part. I treat it as something I disagree with about Katsa. That scene left me incredibly uncomfortable.

I don't remember that scene with Brigan but I don't agree with that either. In any case... (view spoiler)

I'm also uncomfortable with Katsa's treatment of her horses so it's not just things with Po that rubbed me the wrong way about her. Although, obviously, I didn't fault the book for my complicated feelings toward Katsa. She's an interesting and well-crafted character.

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