Thursday, 31 January 2013

"Graceling" by Kristin Cashore

(Graphia, 2008)
I’d heard about Graceling through the Internet. It sounded like an interesting book, something I might have read when I was a teenager. And that right there was my problem. Something a teenager would read. There was no way I was going to go to the young adult section of the bookstore, by myself, to pick this up. I know many adults read young adult, but I felt ridiculous at the thought of finding myself in that part of the bookstore. I don’t know, for me it would just be weird (no offense to anyone here). Then came the solution.
One day, my fifteen year old niece asked me to take her to the bookstore. Holy hell! I didn’t know she liked to read or write. It’s a recent occurrence, apparently. I was so proud, so happy that she’s into books now. So I strolled through the young adult section with her, perusing the many paranormal teen love triangles and giggling at many a cover. And then I saw Graceling. I had forgotten it by that time, but I picked it up anyway and decided to buy it – it wouldn’t look so weird among all the other young adult  books I was buying for my niece (I’m sure the Bernard Cornwell book I also bought for myself looked a little out of place that day).
It’s been a while since I read young adult. Actually, I can’t say that I ever really read much young adult. I seem to have gone from middle grade to Fear Street and Christopher Pike books straight into adult fiction, with Harley, like a person being the only normal young adult book I remember reading (and loving). I don’t know what I was expecting with Graceling, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Okay, so enough rambling, onto the actual review now.
Katsa is the niece of King Randa. She is a Graceling. These are a special few people who are Graced with certain abiltities and have two different eye colors to show it. Some Graces are pretty useless, and the king of that person’s particular kingdom (there are seven in this fantasy world that we know of) will leave those alone. Others, like Katsa, are more useful, very useful even, and the king has the right to take these people under his command. Katsa is graced with fighting. She’s her uncle’s thug, beating and killing at his command. She hates this, but feels like there’s nothing she could do about it. To make up for this disgusting life she leads, she started a Council. This Council does covert operations that undermine not only Randa but the other six kings as well. It is during one of these operations that she meets Po, a Lienid prince who will change everything for Katsa.
Po is also a Graceling. He is searching for his grandfather, Tealiff, whom Katsa had rescued from another king’s keeping. This kidnapping is a big mystery to Po and he knew Katsa had rescued Tealiff from harm. Katsa doesn’t really trust Po at first because he is also a Graceling but there is something more to him that she can’t quite put a finger to. They become friends, eventually, something which is hard for Katsa to do, and Katsa gains the courage to finally break free from Randa’s control. Only, it’s one of those out of the frying pan and into the fire scenarios, for on their way to investigate King Leck of Monsea, whom they think had something to do with Tealiff’s kidnapping, things get very dire.
All in all, I think this book was very creative and original. I liked the idea of people being Graced. It was interesting to read. The writing was well done. Katsa was a pretty believable character. However, I find that my interest waned in the middle of the book and I kind of got bored. I thought King Leck as a villain could have been fleshed out a little more. We never really see him and when we do we just see a maniac. We don’t get to find out why he’s like that, what he really wants with his daughter Bitterblue (thought its obviously something very disgusting), and how he managed to hide, well, what he was hiding all that time. And the ending… I was expecting an epic battle instead we just get a dagger throw (hidden spoiler). It was a little disappointing. Oh well.
I liked this book but sometimes I was just “meh”. So, once again I’m not sure where I stand on a book. But I’m going to be a little more generous than I usually am. I guess, in the end, I am glad that I purchased the book. It was something different from what I usually read and something closer to what I write ( thus I guess you could say it was something of a learning experience).
Final verdict: 4/5

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