Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Gracelings are gifted people. They are gifted with eyes of two diverging colors, and with a skill in which they excels. This is why many can be found in the seven kingdoms, the people's graces varying from cooking to climbing trees. Some of those Gracelings are also requisitioned by the kings for their exceptional skills in fighting, archery and even killing... and so it is for Katsa.

Katsa is the niece of the king Randa from the Midlduns. You would think of her as a fine lady wearing finer clothes and even finer jewelry if only she didn't despise dressing up so. But then again, Katsa has been able to kill a man since she was just only a child, and pretty much everyone is afraid of crossing her one blue and one green eye. To destroy even more your mental picture of a princess in pink gowns, Katsa is used by her uncle as an assassin and a thug, getting to do all the icky jobs.

In this life of hers where she tries to spill as less blood as possible, she meets Po, another Graceling gifted with fighting, who's presence and actions will alter her life forever. What Po and Katsa don't know is that their characters are far from being compatible...

I found Graceling's world original compared to these days fantasy books, especially with the bi-colored eyes element. I thought that the fact that someone was born with a skill perfectly mastered without even training first was a bit sleazy, but I let it pass. The kingdoms' names could have been perfected though, as they were all just a remake of the words north, south, east and west.

The book started with great action, and Katsa's character came out close to be what I call badass. I had waited a long time to meet a fearless, brave and effective character, and I liked the fact that even with all her mighty qualities, Katsa wasn't indomitable. Even if she is a skilled fighter who is almost never beaten, Katsa had to battle her own self, find out her true nature, and I think it was very interesting to see her development throughout the story. Her 'anti kids and marriage' attitude sometimes made me raise an eyebrow, but not enough for it to annoy me.

I thank Cashore for taking her time to let Katsa's and Po's relationship evolve clearly and for not rushing it as some authors do, but I felt as if their love wasn't entirely true. Even if their love was physical and emotional, Katsa wasn't ready to give her relationship more because her mind was locked on the I-won't-marry-I-won't-have-kids ideology. A female character doesn't have to be independent to such a point to be a strong female protagonist. I liked Po, though, because he had the right mix of charm, humour and semi-arrogance that made him an interesting character.

The action around the middle of the book decreased, and the reading became slightly dull, especially when the protagonists traveled through the mountain pass. The storyline overall was good, but in my opinion not amazing. I found that the quest which the protagonists were pursuing ended to quickly, and I think it would have needed a bit more spice. The conclusion was satisfying though, and unpredictable.

I had certain expectations for this book, and I must say Graceling answered them, even if it had some glitches. I was looking for a book that would be enjoyable, with a well-developed but one-volume-long plot. I wasn't amazed by Graceling, but it was a reading I enjoyed.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Rating: 7,9/10

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