Thesis Thursdays: Review – “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

GracelingGraceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore

Published October 1, 2008, by Harcourt

Goodreads | Amazon

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…

Four and a half stars

I was about to call this review a re-review and then I realized I never actually reviewed this on my blog. I have no recollection of a time before my blog but … whatever. Anyways.

As I summed up last week, Graceling was one of the books I used for my thesis and one of only two that didn’t fall apart completely in my hands … mostly.

Since I first read the book, I’ve been in love with it. Katsa, the main character, is the kind of female warrior that I had been looking for since I blew through everything Tamora Pierce had written to the date. Though she hates doing her uncle’s dirty work, she does everything with great skill–while also running an underground Council that works to fix all the evil in the world that the kings of the continent ignore. Though she also worries that she’s an unnatural female, she sticks to her guns about not wanting to get married and not liking kids all that much. She’s strong. She’s brave. She will kick your unrighteous ass.

Also, for a book that sounds like it’s a typical YA about romance, this is the kind of romance I’m always wanting (but usually not getting) when I pick up a more recent YA. Po and Katsa take time to be friends, and Katsa takes time to think about if she even wants to date him. After all, though she likes him, she also wants to be free to be herself–and Po’s a prince, so marrying him would be the end of her freedom. Po, for his part, doesn’t want to change her because he loves her and he allows her to take the freedom she wants while being there for her and loving her. Why is that so hard to write these days?

Ahem.

Anyways. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the setting, which is very quintessential high fantasy. Kings, castles, lords, you name it. What’s really impressive, though, is the scope of the story. Sometimes books just keep you in one kingdom and mention that there is sort of another world beyond the kingdom’s borders. Katsa travels in this book, and you really get a sense of the global world around her. Sometimes I forget that detail while I’m jumping for joy at the romance story line, but it’s still really impressive.

The story itself is action packed and really well written. Sure, there’s some time taken for the evolution of Katsa and Po’s relationship, but the plot doesn’t really suffer from it. Okay, it slows down a bit in the middle because of Katsa freaking out about whether or not to date Po but that is SUCH an important bit of thinking that I can’t be that mad at it. The ending, however, is action sequence after action sequence and … well, to avoid spoilers I’ll just say really well done.

Now, if this was me reading this in 2008, I’d just cap this off with saying that it gets five stars from me and that’s that–READ IT. But it’s 2015 and I’ve just analyzed the crap out of it and now I have to say that the ending … has become a bit of an issue with me, regarding Katsa’s actual (instead of perceived) agency. I can’t really speak to that without spoiling a hell of a lot, but feel free to comment if you’ve read the book and want to discuss what I’m talking about.

I stay at a rating of four and a half stars, though, because it’s so obvious that Cashore was really thinking about Katsa as a strong female character. The book isn’t perfect, but I love it even so because of what Cashore was trying to do with Katsa, and her relationship with Po. If you’re as exhausted with today’s YA and it’s idea of “romance” as I am, READ IT. Or re-read it. You won’t be disappointed.

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7 thoughts on “Thesis Thursdays: Review – “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

  1. Alyn says:

    This was by far my favorite book in the series. I have to admit that I wasn’t satisfied with Katsa and Po’s relationship. I wanted more and didn’t get it. I didn’t get it when they made appearances in Bitterblue either, which was disappointing. I guess it all makes sense because it’s Katsa after all, but what a bummer for those like me who wanted a different HEA.

    • Oh that really is sad. I haven’t read Bitterblue yet, but I held out hope. Through my research I discovered that there was a bunch of little things about their relationship that I didn’t particularly like, but overall I had to stand up for it just because it’s so different that a lot of what’s out there right now. Thanks for letting me know about Bitterblue though!

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