Review: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore

Some people are just born with a little something extra. Sometimes that something special is obvious, other times it’s not. But when you are a Graceling, there is no hiding what you are. Special. Different. Dangerous.

Katsa’s mismatched eyes mark her as a Graceling. Being a Graceling means you have different powers. Some graces are useless, like predicting the weather, while others have more useful graces like reading minds. For Katsa, her grace is killing.

But is being a Graceling the same as being a monster?

As soon as her uncle, King Randa, realizes what her grace is, he uses her as a hired thug, punishing other realms for their insults toward him.

Katsa has been isolated most of her life and feared. She doesn’t know how to love or how to make friends. She is afraid of her grace and her uncle. King Randa has turned her into a monster. She doesn’t know anything else. 

Katsa never plans on marrying, falling in love, or having children. She thinks she will be Randa’s monster forever.

On a special mission, Katsa meets Prince Po….a Graceling prince. When his grandfather goes missing, Po comes to King Randa’s court in search of him. He is drawn to Katsa, he admires her strength, passion, and courage.

Po is her equal in every way. He is graced as a superior fighter and he is confident, strong, and very perceptive. But what appeals to Katsa most of all is that she now has a friend. Someone who will be kind to her, encourage her, and give her hope.

But can she trust Po?

They embark on a heart pounding journey to discovery the mystery surrounding Po’s grandfather’s kidnapping but end up discovering more than they bargained for. Join Po and Katsa on a magical journey of self discovery, love, and adventure in a colorful, high fantasy realm.

This book was enchanting. I enjoyed Katsa as a heroine. She is strong (physically and mentally), determined, and unyielding. But that said, I didn’t love her. Her anger and need to ‘run’ when her temper got the best of her grated on my nerves at times. It is an aspect of her character that I just couldn’t understand or could have understood if she had been a bit more complex. But overall I thought she was relatable and a kick-ass female protagonist!

What I really liked was the sexuality aspect of the novel. Cashore’s approach to the sex question is careful yet honest. Many YA authors shy away from the sex issue or only approach it in terms of marriage. It was both liberating and surprising to see Katsa consider the casual sex option with Po.

I liked that marriage wasn’t a required state for sex to take place, but instead was offered as an alternative for couples that might not be comfortable with kind of commitment. This particular aspect might put some readers off but I thought it was bold and worked well for the characters.

I thought Po was perfect as a romantic interest. He was independent and strong in ways that Katsa wasn’t and he wasn’t emasculated by her. In many ways his strength eclipses hers but it doesn’t overpower or take anything away from Katsa’s character. He was tender but fierce when he needed to be.

I enjoyed the all encompassing realm and I liked that the politics of the realm didn’t take center stage, the story remains focused on the self discovery aspect.

One thing I found distracting was the pace. At times it was fast and I couldn’t wait to get to the next chapter while at other times I found myself wondering if a chapter was almost over. Occasionally the plot got convoluted, plot lines were implied but not fully explained. I was also bothered by the character names. Yes in many ways it adds to the high fantasy element, but I struggled to take certain characters seriously based on their names (example: Princess Bitterblue).

Overall this is a stunning debut novel! I was swept up in the romance and admired the characters. This is a bold, unique read that will thrill readers.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore

  • Kindle Edition
  • Published October 1st 2008 by Harcourt Children’s Books

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (thrilling, edgy YA high fantasy)

Genre: YA, fantasy, high fantasy

Memorable lines/quotes: 

When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?

It humbles me. But it doesn’t humiliate me.

12 thoughts on “Review: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore

    1. I’m thinking about starting Fire tonight or tomorrow and then moving on to Bitterblue. I’m hooked on the series now so I am glad there are more books 🙂

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