(Really 4.5 stars)
Kristin Cashore certainly has a fine writing career ahead of her, as Graceling
, her debut novel is definitely a great read. Her subject matter is rather refreshing and seemingly novel after reading so many books about vamps, werewolves, and faeries. Her story’s a medieval fantasy. Among this world of kings, subjects, and realms are the graced: Men and women identified by their multicolored eyes; each are gifted with a specific ability or strength, for instance swordsmanship, navigation, mind reading, etc. Because of these abilities, in most of the kingdoms families are forced to give up their graceling children to become the property of the king for him to use to his advantage.
The story focuses on Katsa, the niece of King Randa, who’s graced with the ability to kill with her bare hands and to defend herself from any sticky situation. The king takes advantage of her abilities by using her as his enforcer. Katsa despises her situation and desperately wants to find a sense of autonomy and independence and be free from carrying out the king’s whims. Yet she feels powerless against him. However, she never suspects that with the arrival of a young Lienid prince named Po, that he’d be the one to help her find the inner strength she needs to go against her king….
The story’s supported by an interesting mystery surrounding the kidnapping of Po’s grandfather. As Katsa and Po try to unravel the mystery, their discoveries lead them on a journey to confront a cunning adversary that may prove to be dangerous for them both despite their graces.
The reader’s easily drawn into the story by Cashore’s captivating and highly emotive writing style and good characters. However, there’s one thing in this story that prevents me from considering this book a perfect read. Katsa considers marriage as a complete loss of independence and nothing will give her cause her to believe otherwise—not even her love for Po. The book presents Katsa and Po through their interactions and growing friendship as equal partners. They understand each other and seem to be committed, but she turns away from the relationship, only offering him the present, when she can. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t looking for a large wedding and happily ever after ending. I just wish that by the book’s end, Katsa could have recognized that being in a relationship with someone doesn’t have to be an unequal partnership, and that all is needed is trust. In fact, the reader sees an example of this trust between Po’s parents. When King Ror leaves his kingdom, he places the affairs of his kingdom in his wife’s capable hands rather than with his sons or advisors.
That said, I did love this book and am looking forward to read its sequel, Bitterblue
, to see how the characters develop and to see where the relationship goes from here.