Sunday, 19 December 2010
Review: Graceling - Kristin Cashore
Graceling by Kristin Cashore, published by Gollancz in 2009
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
I have been looking forward to reading 'Graceling' for such a long time. The book has been sitting on my bookshelf for months and months and a number of times I nearly picked it up but decided on something else at the last minute. I thought it was about time I really got stuck in and read it before the end of the year. I actually did something I don't normally like to do and read 'Fire' the second book in the trilogy before this one, but I don't think it really mattered in this case because 'Fire' is actually more of a prequel anyway so it wasn't difficult to pick up the story. It was however, so good, that I was then desperate to read 'Graceling' even more!
This book just had everything you could possibly want and more! It had equal parts excitement, mystery, adventure and romance. The plot was fast-paced and thrilling, which was balanced with amazing characters who were brilliantly depicted with striking individual traits. Kristin Cashore has also created such an incredibly realised fantasy world with perfect attention to detail that it literally almost seems real. I love the idea of a world where people are born with special talents, such as mind-reading, singing, dancing or cooking. They can be identified by the fact that their eyes are different colours.
Katsa, the central figure, is a strong, feisty heroine. From birth, she has been graced with the power to kill. A grace that often seems more of a curse. She has been used as a weapon by her uncle, King Randa - a kind of hired-hand, but she becomes sick of the violence she's forced to commit on his behalf and becomes determined to strike out on her own and seek her independence. She's encouraged to follow this path by Po, who is also graced and who believes that she can use her grace for good.
The relationship between Katsa and Po is one of the central elements of the book. It encompasses everything from mutual hostility, to friendship, love and companionship. I completely fell in love with Po and thought that he was so perfect for Katsa. He allows her to be the person she truly is, instead of what everyone around her wants her to be. From Cashore's descriptions he's gorgeous (which can't hurt!), kind, brave, strong, heroic and sensitive. Their story is beautifully written and I liked the fact that their relationship is one of equality and mutual trust. They don't necessarily have to be married to be bonded to each other and I loved the fact that Po is willing to let Katsa decide, giving her the freedom to make her own decisions and choices.
In the latter part of the book, Katsa and Po have to come together to protect King Leck's daughter Bitterblue when her life is put in danger. I sped through this section of 'Graceling' because by this point, there was no way I was going to put the book down until I'd finished it. The tension and excitement kept on building to a peak and there was so many unpredictable twists and turns that I didn't know what to expect next.
'Graceling' is an extraordinary book by such a talented and incredible writer. I loved 'Fire' but I think, if possible, that I enjoyed 'Graceling' even more. I became completely swept up in the story and I'm looking forward to reading many more books penned by the talented Kristin Cashore.
My review of 'Fire' can be read here if you'd like to see what I thought of #2 in the trilogy.
Book 3 in The Seven Kingdoms trilogy will be called 'Bitterblue'. Here's what Kristin says about it on her blog:
"Book 3, tentatively titled Bitterblue and currently in progress, is a companion book to both Graceling and Fire and takes place in the seven kingdoms six years after Graceling. As you may have gathered, the protagonist is Bitterblue. Yes, Katsa, Po, and others from Graceling whom I'm not yet willing to name do appear in the book. I don't know yet when it'll be coming out, and heartily invite you not to ask ^_^. That's all I can say about it at this point."