Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Graceling (Kristin Cashore)

(The Graceling series, Book 1)
Kristin Cashore
Fiction, YA Fantasy
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: Since developing odd eyes - one green and one blue - Katsa was known to be a Graceling, touched by a rare magic with some unique gift. It wasn't until she killed a man at age eight that her Grace was revealed: she cannot be beaten in battle, nor does she feel pain as other people do. Her uncle, King Randa of the Middluns, uses her as his personal enforcer, sending her to punish or even kill criminals, rivals, or anyone who manages to displease him. The very whisper of her name is enough to strike fear into hearts across the Seven Kingdoms.
Katsa hates it.
She finds subtle ways to subvert Randa - creating a secret Council to soften the cruelty of his rule, twisting his orders so she might shed as little blood as possible - but cannot break free of his control of her life. Worse, her uncle expects her to marry at some point, for his own advantage naturally. As little as she can imagine being free of his collar, she can't begin to contemplate being with a man, even in an arranged union. At least, not until the night she sets out to rescue a kidnapped Lienid king and runs into Prince Po. Another Graceling, nearly her equal in combat, he makes her question everything she thought she knew about Randa, her Grace, and the whole of the Seven Kingdoms - not to mention the dark and terrifying places within her own frozen heart.

REVIEW: With a powerful yet fallible heroine and an interesting world, Graceling starts strong and rarely slackens its pace. Katsa's growth from unfeeling slave to empowered protector flows naturally with the story, with minimal whining or bouts of self-pity. Gracelings and the magic of the Graces are never fully explained, yet they work well in this world, creating people who are both feared and exploited for gifts they have no control over... or feared and outcast should their Grace prove useless. Worse, there is no way to hide the fact that one has a Grace, with such obvious markings as odd-colored eyes. The plot moves at a good clip, balancing action with introspection (with a slight bias toward the former) along the way to an intense climax. The ending feels slightly protracted, wrapping up the external conflict well before it resolves the internal ones. On the whole, I found it very enjoyable.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Green Rider (Kristen Britain) - My Review
The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley) - My Review
Alanna: The First Adventure (Tamora Pierce) - My Review

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