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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.
Reading this book was an edifying experience. I didn't jive with Katsa right off the bat. She's so different from anyone I know, more brutal and anti-social in a way. But through her relationships with her cousin and his confidant, and later with the male lead, she became a real person to me. Cashore deftly puts the reader in Katsa's shoes. What would your life be like if you accidentally killed someone when you were only a child, if anyone could look at your face and know you were dangerous, that you were to be feared? From childhood! So even though I've never been in Katsa's position, I could empathize with her through Cashore's writing. I came to appreciate the subtle aspects of Katsa's personality, her fierce loyalty and desperate fears of becoming the monster everyone thought she was.
The level of detail and description in this book is exquisite. And the dialogue made me laugh several times, as well as cry.
Near the end, this book devastated me with a major blow to my favorite character. Normally, this might be grounds for immediate bookhate, but it was so artful and tragically beautiful, I accepted it. It worked with the story, and still allowed for a hopeful ending.
Even at the end, I didn't understand Katsa. She doesn't want the same things I always wanted. But that's how I know Cashore is a talented writer! Because despite all that dissonance--despite Katsa being my polar opposite--I understood her choices and as a reader was able to accept them.
I'm now looking forward to reading the companion novel FIRE, which is apparently about a completely other creature/person. It will be interesting to see how the world fleshes out even more with a new cast of characters and (I've heard) some allusion to the cast of Graceling.
Do I recommend Graceling? Yes! For the mature fantasy reader. Someone who can handle sex and violence in literature. Like Wither, another book I recently reviewed, Graceling deals with themes normally assigned to adults, if at all (I don't know many teens or adults who are assassins :). A mature teen might handle and appreciate the mix of beauty and tragedy in this book, but I wouldn't recommend it to a younger crowd. As an adult, I reveled in it. Five stars on goodreads.
What did you think? Did you jive with Katsa as a character? What about Prince Po?