Graceling by Kristin Cashore

While taking a film and literature class last year, each student had to take a part (a chapter, the intro, something of our choosing) of a novel or short story and adapt it into a screenplay that held the elements of the piece without just being written in a different form. While I chose the first chapter of The Name of the Wind (maybe I will post my adaptation if I’m ever feeling pretentiously good about myself), one of my to-be-librarian friends chose Graceling. She gushed about the plot and the powers of the characters. I admit, I was a little intrigued, regardless of the fact that she had probably started and finished the project the night before. Anywho. Graceling is a 471 page fantasy, romance story by Kristin Cashore.

Graceling is about people who have Graces which make them quite good at one thing. Some people don’t have Graces, but for those who do, life is a little more interesting. There are many types of Graces, like being exceedingly good at swimming, climbing, singing, etc. However, for the main character of this novel, we learn about the Grace of killing. Katsa is a young adult who has been bent to the will of her uncle, King Randa of the Middluns, ever since she showed her Grace by accidentally killed one of her cousins when she was eight. As she develops her killing skill, her uncle forces her to be his strong arm of “justice” by threatening his subjects with consequences from Katsa.

While out on a mission to save an elderly relation of a king from another country, Katsa runs into a man from that country, who happens to be Prince Po, a man Graced with combat skills.  While trying to figure out why the man was kidnapped from his country, Katsa and Po train together. Their conversations and adventures were incredibly fun and deep–you really get to know the characters.

I loved Po and Katsa as two strong fighters in Graceling’s old world. All the characters in this book were absolutely brilliant. You meet characters from other countries and learn about some of their culture, like Bitterblue, who is the daughter of another king. I would say characterization made the book, but honestly, everything in this book just worked for me. Cashore knew exactly how to write exciting fight scenes, not-too-gushy romantic scenes, frightening scenes, and mysterious characters. I was quite impressed by her easy writing style.

As for thickening plot, the secret villain was incredibly well-thought out and fascinating. The villain was intelligent and used a terrifying Grace. I don’t want to give too much away, because the adventure of reading the story really is that worth it. I read Graceling this past summer, and I hadn’t enjoyed a book as much as I did this one in what felt like a long time. I finished it quickly and immediately wanted to spread the love of the story. This book was fantastic, and practically no matter what you enjoy reading–although fantasy and worldbuilding lovers may especially appreciate it–I give this book my hearty recommendation. I plan to read the following novels, Fire and Bitterblue, in the future. I am really excited to read more of Kristin Cashore’s accessible style.

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