The Premise: Graceling is the story of Katsa, who is a graceling — someone who has two different colored eyes and preternatural ability in a certain skill. Katsa’s grace is that of killing, and since this was discovered, she’s been nothing but her uncle the king’s enforcer; threatening and killing as he sees fit. As Katsa grows up she dislikes herself and her role in the kingdom more and more. Things begin to come to a head when Katsa meets Po, a prince from another kingdom who is a Graceling too.
My Thoughts: I read Fire before Graceling. Graceling was published before Fire, but chronologically Fire happens before Graceling. I think you can read these books in either order, but I felt that I was a little more spoiled from reading Fire first than I may have been the other way around. I was less surprised about the villain of Graceling than I think I would have been if I’d read them in the other order.
I really LOVED Fire, I found myself just contentedly reading it and not wanting to move or do anything else, but I had a different reaction to Graceling. Graceling was an excellent fantasy with a sweet romance, but it didn’t enthrall me in the same way that Fire did. I found Graceling a slower read and I put it down more, especially in the first third of the book. I think I connected to Katsa a little less than I did Fire. She grew as the book progressed, and she learned to accept her Grace and believe that she wasn’t really a monster, but she was less emotionally available and had problems with opening herself up to people, and maybe that was why I couldn’t connect as well. Or maybe the reason is that I read Fire first so I love that most? It’s hard to tell what makes me love one book more than another sometimes..
I think a few people have already commented on Katsa’s unwillingness to get married. I could understand the idea in general, but when Katsa kept trying to explain it she alienated me more. I don’t think I really needed to read that she felt that getting married was too similar to being owned by someone, the way she was with King Randa. After a while, her constant fearful explanations about it made me think she was just a chicken rather than someone who had a life philosophy and just didn’t want to get married. Why was it brought up so much?! Ug, it started to irk me.
On the other hand, I really liked Po, Katsa’s love interest. He was a lovely secondary character, especially in the way he responded to Katsa and her moods. Cashore really writes some great guys in her stories! Po has a way of accepting Katsa for exactly who she was that was refreshing. I also loved Bitterblue, who is one of the most levelheaded young ladies I’ve read of in a while. I’m glad to know she has her own book which is coming out sometime next year (word is we also can catch up with Po and Katsa in it too).
Final note: There are sexual situations in this book, but it was written in a very vague way; nothing explicit.
Overall: I liked Fire better, but it’s another good young adult fantasy by this author. Brave heroines, understanding heroes and deep friendships make this series a recommended read. Cashore goes onto my autobuy author list.
Book girl of Mur-y-Castell – “it was ok”
Book Love Affair – 9 out of 10
Lurv a la Mode – 4 scoops (out of 5)
Jawas Read , Too – Positive with some quibbles. I agreed with this review
Calico reaction – Worth the Cash