YA Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

There’s something you should know about Graceling. It is about a killer girl. I mean, literally. The Main Character is born in a fantasy/medieval world where the some people are blessed, or cursed, with a talent called a “Grace.” These people have extraordinary abilities that are sometimes amazing and sometimes totally useless (like the ability to hold one’s breath for a long time).

480 pages | Graphia | 2009

Katsa, whose uncle is the King of Randa, is one of those people and falls into the former category. She has something people call the Grace of killing, and as such, is used and manipulated by her uncle to commit heinous crimes (assassinations, beatings) in the silent name of the kingdom. People stay away from her because rumors say she can kill a man with her bare hands.

The worst part is, the rumors are right. But Kasta hates her Grace, hates what people think she represents. But then along comes Po, a mysterious prince from a kingdom far away, and together they go on an adventure where Katsa soon learns that there is perhaps more to her than her Grace alone.

I wouldn’t say this book particularly resonated deeply with me, but I will say that it is has a very interesting premise. A girl with a killing Grace? Sign me up! Katsa is a headstrong, stubborn girl with a broken past and a very interesting skill. All her life she has been controlled by her uncle, and she wants to break free. It was fascinating to see her slowly learn to trust the people around her–even learn to trust enough to love.

I will just let you know up front that Graceling is pretty heavy on the romance. The entire revelation/character development of Katsa hinges on her friendship and then budding romance with Po. I’m not saying that it’s not a healthy relationship, but the book does use alot of the notions of “falling in love” to drive the MC into having the revelations about herself that she does. Then again, friendship and love. Aren’t those two things why revelations happen in real life anyways?

The problem with this book is that Katsa borders on Mary Sue perfection. She is the unstoppable machine: she never gets tired, has great memory, can kill with her bare hands. I suppose the only weakness she really has is that she is an absolute emotional wreck. And you know, I can’t blame her. Only someone who has had their freedom taken away from them can truly value independence. (BTW: Parents might want to pre-read this book ahead of time–some of Katsa’s choices do not fall in line with certain conservative values we see in society today, i.e., marriage)

Admittedly I read this entire book in one sitting, so my views on it are generally still positive despite any of the concerns I’ve noted above. Graceling is highly addicting, fast paced, and definitely not the “underdog” type stories. That being said, you as a reader never truly wonder if this girl is in any real danger. I mean, she knows a hundred ways to kill a man. What’s there to be worried about?

But the villian. Ooh, I lieked him. I give you kudos for that, Kristin. Exactly the type of person to go against Katsa’s Grace. Like yin to the yang. Would have liked it better if you stretched out his scenes a little though. Seems a little hurried near the ending and it didn’t give me the satisfaction of a solid conclusion.

But, without further ado, I give…

Three and a half paws up for:

+A strong protagonist that doesn’t back down
+Questions of what defines the self
+Great world building. The idea of Graces was original and very intriguing.
+A very cool, very slick, totally evil villain

One and a half paws down for:

-A strong protagonist whose whole premise centers on her ability to fight. And fight she does, but that is seriously all she does. She doesn’t really think before she acts.
-A sort of confusing climax. As in, “Wait, just like that?”
-Why U so perfect, Katsa? Even after the revelation, she is just even more perfect.

Recommended for:

+Anyone who likes medieval fantasy
+Teens who liked The Hunger Games


Print Edition
Kindle Edition

The Paper Foxes Rates:


3 responses to “YA Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

  1. Great review! I recently read “Graceling,” and I really liked the concept and the writing style, but I was also definitely disappointed in the ending. All that buildup to their confrontation, and I felt like I blinked and it was over. Still, I liked it enough that I went out and read “Fire” and “Bitterblue” as well. Have you thought about reading the sequels?

    • Exactly! I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that way about the ending. Leck was such a great character with such great potential, and it was shame Cashore didn’t really hit the mark with that confrontation. And yes, you are spot on! I have been on edge for months now just debating if I should read Bitterblue (I haven’t heard much about Fire, but the cover looks TO DIE FOR). I heard great things about about Bitterblue, and I’ve seen it enough at Target to really want to pick it up, but haven’t done so yet. Did you enjoy it? Was it worth your time?

      • I enjoyed it – you get to see more of what Leck was like, and I really like Bitterblue as a protagonist. I’ve heard people complain that it was too slow-moving, but honestly I felt hooked the entire time, and I’d say it’s worth a read. “Fire” was pretty good, too, although it had some of the same issues as “Graceling” in that the main protagonist is super powerful, the whole story hinges on the romance, and there’s not nearly enough with Leck. Still, I enjoyed it. It would be interesting to see what you think. 🙂

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