In a world where people borne with an extreme skill–called a Grace–are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. When she first meets Prince Po, who is 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. (goodreads.com)
I’m not a big fan of fantasy. To be honest, the only fantasy book I’ve ever picked up is Fellowship of the Ring, and although I have it in my goals to finish the series, I find myself dreading it.
Once I got past the first two pages of Graceling, I couldn’t put it down. I devoured it in just a couple of days, sitting in my not-so-comfy chair at work and letting the book draw me in. Cashore’s writing flows beautifully, and although I eventually got tired of reading scenery description, it didn’t detract from the novel as a whole.
I adored Katsa, although I was a little disappointed that she left Po to his own devices so she could be a free woman, especially since she goes to such lengths to keep Po’s secret. I liked that Katsa was bound and determined to be a free woman, yet despite Po’s protestations that she’d be free to come and go, Katsa was so hung up on not wanting to lose her freedom and not produce an heir (although it is doubtful that Po, the youngest of seven boys, would ever be in a position where he would have to have an heir), she declines to stay with Po. In fact, the one problem that I had with Katsa was that, despite all that she goes through in the novel, she doesn’t change at all. There is no development with her character.
Po, on the other hand, changes quite a bit throughout the novel, and he adapts to changes in his life readily. He is more fluid than Katsa, and I enjoyed his character a lot more.
I had a difficult time believing that Bitterblue was only ten. If she had been written at the age of 15 or so, I might have believed it, but Bitterblue speaks like someone so much older than she really is, and I had a hard time picturing her as a child.
A lot of this book is traveling. Katsa travels back and forth from city to city, she and Po leave her home in the Middluns to go hunt for information about Po’s kidnapped grandfather, they go to yet another kingdom intending to visit Po’s aunt… It’s an epic journey, although a lot of the days are glossed over or skipped in order to get to the next important part, and I had no trouble keeping up without feeling like the traveling was tedious.
Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. It was a pleasant surprise, considering my general avoidance of fantasy novels.
Originally posted 08 February 2011.