Monday, May 13, 2013

{YA Review} Graceling by Kristin Cashore

{YA Review} Graceling by Kristin Cashore

His eyes, Katsa had never seen such eyes. One was silver, and the other, gold. They glowed in his sun-darkened face, uneven, and strange. She was surprised that they hadn't shone in the darkness of their first meeting. They didn't seem human....

Then he raised his eyebrows a hair, and his mouth shifted into the hint of a smirk. He nodded at her, just barely, and it released her from her spell.

Cocky, she thought. Cocky and arrogant, this one, and that was all there was to make of him. Whatever game he was playing, if he expected her to join him he would be disappointed.

In a world where people born with an extreme skill—called a Grace—are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the 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. (Blurb via Goodreads)
{Details} Ebook (via library), 471 pages, published October 1st 2008 by Harcourt

{Rating} 4/5

{Review} A lovely book with a strong, flawed heroine, a quest and a deep and true love. Graceling is about choices. About freedom. About who we are, who we choose to be. About how other people shape us, define us. About the lengths people will go to protect themselves, to protect the people they love.

Katsa is awesome in every meaning of the word. I pitied her, cheered for her, condemned her and sympathized with her. Cashore does a good job of putting us in Katsa's head. She makes sure that we feel how Katsa's Grace isolates her and how very difficult it is for her to be close to anyone else. I thought Katsa was strong and brave and went through an incredible journey as she struggles to redefine, or define herself, and deal with falling in love and losing control and building a life.

Po is exactly what Katsa needs and exactly what the reader needs for us to see Katsa be more than the King's enforcer. He challenges her, makes her think, makes her want more. He's a complex character and we have to wait while his motivations and secrets are slowly revealed.

I loved the way Cashore developed their relationship both as friends and romantically. It's not a romance that's typical for the YA genre. It's hard and real and requires effort, sacrifice and hard earned trust. The way they love each other is a good model, they have respect and trust and understanding that's built over time and through strife and challenge. It's a real love without losing their individuality when they become 'them'.

Though there is also an epic quest I thought it took a backseat to Katsa's journey and I found myself hurrying through those pages. On the downside, I did feel that the book went slowly at times and was a bit too long. I also would have appreciated more dialog and less description but those are all minor issues.

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