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Graceling

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Author: Kristin Cashore

Published: October 1st 2008 by Harcourt

Format: Hardcover , 471 pages

Isbn: 9780152063962

Language: English


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Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. She never ex Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

30 review for Graceling

  1. 5 out of 5

    Miss Clark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I wanted so badly to like this book. It has so much going for it. It is original and inventive. I never once caught myself thinking, "Now, where did I read that before? Oh, right, in the last three books!" The idea of the graced, their skills and their mismatched eyes; of the seven kingdoms; of the characters themselves. All of them were uniquely Cashore's own. Her prose was clear and lucid, though there were passages that dragged and made me want to skip ahead. So, pacing was occasionally a pro I wanted so badly to like this book. It has so much going for it. It is original and inventive. I never once caught myself thinking, "Now, where did I read that before? Oh, right, in the last three books!" The idea of the graced, their skills and their mismatched eyes; of the seven kingdoms; of the characters themselves. All of them were uniquely Cashore's own. Her prose was clear and lucid, though there were passages that dragged and made me want to skip ahead. So, pacing was occasionally a problem, but not the actual words themselves. I thought it quite notable, especially as a debut. However. Yes, that dreaded however. But before we get to that, a quick disclaimer. I certainly have no say on what Cashore did or did not intend the book to say. I only can say with certainty what I find in the book and I hope you can agree that if, in addition to great writing and engaging stories, one desires one's reading material to have at the very least some simple ethics, it is more than reasonable that some readers will discuss and debate the ethics and social mores that certain features of this book present. Personally, I appreciate being able to discuss something that a book mentions and which allows me to think of it in an entirely different light. I am fully aware that many might feel that this review is biased and unfair, written from a narrow-minded, hidebound mentality. How dare I allow my personal convictions to color my view of a book I read? Especially a fantasy book that clearly takes place in a world that is not this one. But before you comment to let me know that I am a horrible disgrace and disappointment as a human for allowing my personal convictions to color my view of a book that I have read, please take a moment to know that I am not allowing any comments on this review. I had nearly 50 comments on this review and I ultimately chose to delete them when the vitriolic, contemptuous comments kept coming. For those of you whose opinions differed, but who chose to share that contrary opinion with civility and tolerance, I would like once more to extend my sincerest thanks, especially to Ariel and Angie. For the others that commented to agree or say thanks for the review, I hope it helped. So, back to that however. My issue is that firstly, what Po and Katsa have is not love. Infatuation? Certainly. Affection? Sure. But love, "true love," is wanting what is best for the other person and doing whatever one can so that the other is able to move toward the best. Thus, love is at its core sacrificial and giving. What is the purpose of Katsa's and Po's sexual relationship? It is of transient emotional and physical benefit, but how does it benefit them ultimately? I don’t believe that love equals sex, and the book seemed to infer just that. But say she did love him. I'm all for girl power and females don't need a guy to be fulfilled. All for that. I even understand that at that point in Katsa's life she had just claimed her freedom and could not imagine entering any other station of life that would in any way limit or curtail her personal liberty. All well and fine. But then she goes ahead and enters into a physical relationship with a guy because she "loves" him, but just can't ever be "married" to him because that would limit her sense of self and her own freedom to come and go as she pleased. Granted, the concept of marriage within the confines of that secondary world might differ, it could be a total abnegation of self, but I never got that sense when they talked about marriages in their society. In fact, at its core, marriage (in our world) is a contract of personal commitment between two people, but Katsa, while perhaps legitimately shunning marriage in her world, still has no desire to ever commit to Po in any way. So it would seem that Katsa's issues had way more to do with herself and her own flaws and insecurities than the idea of commitment or even Po. Given his affection for her, he would never have limited her freedom. But flip the coin. What if it was Po who “loved” Katsa, but refused to marry her because then he would not be free? Where he was the one who would take whatever Katsa had to offer, but did not care enough to actually make any sort of commitment to her? That likely would not go over as well. It is strange what a double standard we have in relationships, esp. in a "feminist" age. We praise novels that show females as strong, independent individuals, even if that means they are also selfish and controlling, while we quite rightly condemn that sort of behavior in male protagonists. But then not only are we giving a sad view of a "strong" woman, as if that is the only way to portray a vibrant and intelligent female, we are also touting a weak and ineffective masculine image that indicates that no male can be resourceful or a leader or else he is preventing the girl from being who she ought to be free to be...etc. When we did we stop striving for an ideal where both men and women complimented each other, each being allowed their own strengths, and being equals rather than always rivals and competitors? So, again, a talented new author, but I have deep reservations about some of the messages in this book and I doubt I will recommend it to many people. Which is a shame considering the quality of the rest of the story, which is easily three stars for the prose, though the plot had a few spots that seemed out of place. Graceling never seemed like it should have been a love story (much less a hook-up), and I was loving it as a fine fantasy/ personal growth novel, but once they brought in the romantic/ anti-romantic elements, it lost me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kat Kennedy

    Graceling by Kristin Cashore follows in a burgeoning market for strong female characters. Katsa is much like Katniss from The Hunger Games in her naive perception of the world, her coldness and tendency towards pragmatic practicality. She is similar to Xhex from the Black Dagger Brotherhood in her disgust of all things "feminine". The story is well written, with engaging, fun characters. Katsa is fun to read about. The plot may be a little predictable at times but it did throw me a curve ball tow Graceling by Kristin Cashore follows in a burgeoning market for strong female characters. Katsa is much like Katniss from The Hunger Games in her naive perception of the world, her coldness and tendency towards pragmatic practicality. She is similar to Xhex from the Black Dagger Brotherhood in her disgust of all things "feminine". The story is well written, with engaging, fun characters. Katsa is fun to read about. The plot may be a little predictable at times but it did throw me a curve ball toward the end. The romance is lovely between Katsa and Po. I take exception though, to the message that this book sends. It is the same message I am reading over and over again in current literature. From Bella Swan who looks down on girls who like shopping, to Xhex who must be wrestled into a dress and who sees all signs of emotion as feminine weakness and now Katsa who refuses to marry or have children and who despises dresses and long hair. Message to authors: It is not nice dresses and pretty hair and an ability to be weepy on occasion that is the cause for the many inequality issues that women face. Putting a woman in pants does not change how the world perceives her. It doesn't suddenly make her stronger and better than the woman in the dress who likes jewelery! Your character does not suddenly become the beacon of the feminist movement because she doesn't like dresses. So sick of reading about "strong, independent female characters" who don't like dresses and spend most of the novel putting down almost every other female character as weak and pathetic.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Krystle

    Graceling has a beautiful cover, great premise, and lots of hype, and would be a terrific novel if it weren’t for the writing and atrocious main character. What is with the awkward sentence structures and prose in this book? "In these dungeons the darkess was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind." It should be "In these dungeons, the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind." And look at the next sentence: "One that had so far proven to be correct, as Oll's maps tended to do." Graceling has a beautiful cover, great premise, and lots of hype, and would be a terrific novel if it weren’t for the writing and atrocious main character. What is with the awkward sentence structures and prose in this book? "In these dungeons the darkess was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind." It should be "In these dungeons, the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind." And look at the next sentence: "One that had so far proven to be correct, as Oll's maps tended to do." What? That made absolutely no sense. Instead: "One that had so far proven to be correct, as Oll's maps tended to be." Wouldn't that be better? Then later on... "Turning when it was time to turn..." What? Isn't that redundant? And: "She began to hear voices as she entered a corridor where the darkness flickered orange with the light of a torch set in the wall." Dude, darkness does not flicker orange, if it did then that would not make it dark. And it's not with the light of a torch, but light from a torch. That whole sentence is just full of awkward phrasing and clunky description. And the next: "Katsa crept toward the light and the sound of laughter." How can she creep toward laughter when it wasn't even introduced earlier? It just does not get any better. And later on, she pulls her hood down over her eyes. What the hell. How do you expect to fight if you can't see where the heck you're going or what you're doing. It's not a surprise she trips over the four guards because OBVIOUSLY, you can't see anything! Why does she need to pull her hood down to hide her eyes when the guard she fights later ALREADY KNOWS WHAT SHE IS? Okay, that's it. I'm done. But the biggest offense of the book was the main character. Katsa is the most annoying, aggravating, self-centered, abusive, and violent character I’ve ever had the misfortune to read from the eyes from. I thought Bella was tops (in annoying meter ranking), but Katsa wins the prize. During the book there were many instances where I wished I could rip her hair out and run her through with her own sword. She has some of the big Mary Sue tendencies. It wasn’t so bad that she was Graced with some special ability but hers was off the wall unbelievable that I couldn’t give her any sort of realistic credibility at all. Not only can she kill anyone with her bare hands, she’s faster than anyone, builds fire better than anyone, hunts better than anyone, shoots and fires arrows better than anyone, yet she doesn’t suffer from the freezing cold as the rest of her comrades - it just slows her down when other normal people would be down on the ground dying from hypothermia. She doesn’t even tire like the rest of them because she just has unending bundles of stamina. So much so that she can go for days without sleeping even though they were in some pretty gruesome and difficult battles... And the list goes on. I mean what can Ms. Perfect not do? And don't give me that crap about how it's logical because of her special grace. There's a special balance between believable and ridiculous, and I'm sorry, but this is way over into the ridiculous area. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Katsa’s most nonredeemable factor was her attitude. No one can tell her to do anything she doesn’t want to do even if it’s for the wiser. And if she doesn’t like what she hears, her first reaction is anger, and then she throws a tantrum until she gets her way. But yet, every situation she finds unappealing to her, the first though that comes to mind is violence. I clearly remember a scene where Po told her his opinion which wasn’t demeaning, cruel, or hurtful at all, and you know what she does? Hits him so hard he falls off his chair and has a wicked bruise. W-T-F. And not only that, her characterization is inconsistent. She’s supposed to be this bad ass chick who takes no crap from anyone and doesn't need a man in her life to define her but as soon as Po enters and tells her he’s going to leave she cries tears because she “doesn’t know why”? What the hell kind of crap is this? And what is her utter revulsion to marriage? I mean, I don’t want to get married as well but Katsa’s reasoning behind this is not concrete or sufficient enough to support her viewpoint that she vehemently defends many times throughout the book. Not bringing children into this world, yes, I totally get it and understand but marriage? Especially when Po is searching for a sign of commitment on their relationship. If she did not want to marry him or anyone in particular she could supplement this in other ways but she doesn't. I was absolutely disgusted, disgusted , by the way she treated her horses. She treats them as a way to serve her own self-satisfying needs without care. The first instance that stuck me was when Po and Katsa were riding off somewhere and she slammed her horse against Po's because she wanted to get his attention. W-T-F! Not only is that dangerous to the rider because they could fall off, but it's dangerous to the horse! Slamming into another horse while you're riding is NOT something you do. The horse could have fallen because the impact threw him off balance, and you're obviously not going to walk away from that injury free, or it could have tripped and then fallen. Not to mention she ALWAYS pushes her horses to ride fast because she has no patience and wants to get there faster, and if someone tells her they needed to rest the horses or they'll break them, she just throws hissy fits about how they have to hurry and they're just slowing her down. Horses are not machines, good god! They're living, breathing animals that need care just like we do! The next one was near the end of the book where she pushed everyone so hard, and rode for hours at a blistering gallop just so they could reach their destination faster. And then I clearly remember someone, Skye, I believe it was telling her that she lamed a horse. And you know what Katsa’s response to this was? “Oh, he’s not lame! He’s perfectly fine” and then throws a fit about how he’s slowing them down and they need to get up and ride him harder so they can get to their destination faster. OMFG! I almost threw the book across the room in rage. The place names were very uncreative. You might think they’re clever but they were shallow attempts at trying to make them seem more “fantasy” epic-like. They were just barely concealed renamings of East, West, South, North, and Middle. And I didn’t even get started on the writing. It was super choppy, suffered from an annoying excess of repetitive phrasing, and without a lot of “showing”. The structure was all the same. Katsa went and did this, did that, felt this, and so on and so forth. Another problem was the insane amounts of info-dumping in the beginning. After the third page, I just couldn’t give a rip about the places’ history, what it looked like, who was who’s father. I can see why a lot of people love this book. There’s romance, a super strong female character that kicks butt, and the tried and true quest/adventure formula of a fantasy novel. But it’s just not for me. I absolutely hate not finishing a series so I’ll probably read the next one, but ugh, not looking forward to it. My opinion? Avoid this book. I may probably be stoned to death for this review because every where I go it seems to be so well loved and praised with glowing reviews.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    July 2020: I cannot look at my original review for this book anymore. It's time it went under a tag. I won't delete it because it's sorta fun (and deeply embarrassing) to look back on the silly things I thought when I was younger. But I don't believe almost all of the things I wrote 9 years ago. If I ever do a reread, I'll write an updated review. Old review posted 7th May 2011: (view spoiler)[First thing I need to point out is that I consider myself a feminist, even as far as to take an active ro July 2020: I cannot look at my original review for this book anymore. It's time it went under a tag. I won't delete it because it's sorta fun (and deeply embarrassing) to look back on the silly things I thought when I was younger. But I don't believe almost all of the things I wrote 9 years ago. If I ever do a reread, I'll write an updated review. Old review posted 7th May 2011: (view spoiler)[First thing I need to point out is that I consider myself a feminist, even as far as to take an active role is such matters. Previously, I have written articles on Feministing and I honestly think so many of these issues are still very important in today's world. However you look at it, the battle for equality has not been won and has, in fact, become rather dormant. On that note, I love reading fiction by feminist writers, Atwood never fails to deliver and The Handmaid's Tale is one of my favourite books of all time. Similarly with Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, except Woolf's writing can make you want to slit your wrists at times. The point of me saying this is that when I heard Graceling called 'feminist propaganda', rather than being repelled, I was intrigued. I love modern stories with strong heroines who can stand up for themselves and don't need to wait for prince charming to swoop in and save them. Katsa fit this in many ways, true, but I have so many issues with the feminist ideals in this novel that I don't know where to begin. I am constantly faced with the irritating irony of radical feminists. The irony being that their favourite passtime is telling women what to do. Real feminism (as in the one that actually cares about women) is about choice, not about having to follow strict guidelines in order to banish the image of feminity. It's people like Kristin Cashore who make the term 'feminism' seem like a dirty word. Being strong and capable of making your own decisions is one thing... but the extremes of having to prove that you don't care about your looks or refusing to wear a dress is ridiculous. I wear dresses, I wear make-up, I like to make the effort to look nice... but in Cashore's world that means I'm a weak, pathetic wannabe-housewife. For me, the main mistake that Cashore makes is to assume that anything 'girly' is bad. It's an ongoing debate about women and feminism. For example, take the stereotype that women are more emotional and are therefore more weak than men. The argument is: Is this wrong and women are not more emotional? Or does what's wrong lie in the idea that emotions are a weakness because they are a feminine trait? Radical feminism continues to try and spit on traditional aspects of what it means to be feminine. Of course, it is arguable that the idea of 'feminine' is created through socialisation (e.g. dressing babies in either pink or blue depending on gender), but it has long been my opinion that if you take the colour pink (a worldwide symbol of the female gender) and make it into something that should be disgusting, then that's about as anti-woman as you can get. Margaret Atwood understood the dangers of radicalism and wrote the novel to go with it. In the same way that extreme socialism becomes the mirror of totalitarianism, radical feminism begins to mirror sexism. And that's why I had issues with a great deal of Graceling. But... what I did like was the love story between Katsa and Po, once Katsa got over the idea that he would somehow take possession of her after sex. Po was a sweetheart and an all-round likeable character. And, don't get me wrong, I never really disliked Katsa because the fact that she refuses to wear a dress and doesn't want children is entirely her choice and that's what's important. I liked her strength and at many times I felt her frustration... particularly with regards to the girls throughout the kingdoms who were never taught to protect themselves because their fathers and brothers were expected to do it. I completely agree with the idea that the girls should have been taught self-defence and self-sufficiency. The whole backdrop of magical kingdoms and whatnot was alright. It fit nicely around the main characters but I found the love story to hold most of my attention and that's why I've decided that I don't want to read Fire. The reviews of it tell me that romance comes far behind the whole fantasy aspect and I still have Tolkien nightmares. Yeah so, not a bad story but so many things disagreed with what I stand for. (hide spoiler)]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else? Authors, take note: This is YA Lit done right. Katsa is a monster. She's been one ever since she discovered the power of her killing Grace. Only...she starts to wonder, does she have to be? In the Graceling Realm, those born with heterochromia (different colored eyes) are blessed with a Grace. A Grace can be anything from the mundane (i.e. holding your breath indefinitely) to the cruel ( When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else? Authors, take note: This is YA Lit done right. Katsa is a monster. She's been one ever since she discovered the power of her killing Grace. Only...she starts to wonder, does she have to be? In the Graceling Realm, those born with heterochromia (different colored eyes) are blessed with a Grace. A Grace can be anything from the mundane (i.e. holding your breath indefinitely) to the cruel (i.e. mind control). Katsa has been "blessed" with a killing grace. Ever since she was a child, she could murder at the slightest touch. A Gracling born into her kingdom is automatically offered to the King (her uncle). Under his thumb, she murdered, tortured and struck horror across his lands and the seven kingdoms. However, as she grew older, she became less comfortable in her own skin. So, she formed an alliance with sympathizers and started moonlighting as a hero. When a mysterious prince - one with a silver eye and a gold eye and graced with fighting - visits to her kingdom, she finds herself questioning everything she's ever done. First off - abso-freaking-lutely loved this premise. The powers, the squabbling kingdoms, the atmosphere. YES. Mercy was more frightening than murder, because it was harder. Second off - I loved Katsa's strength. She's far stronger than any man in the kingdom - but the writing and the characterization is done so well that she never dips a toe into Mary Sue territory nor does she get thrown into the self-sacrificing-woe-is-me category. She's a badass who's earned her credentials. And, I adore her sass: Perhaps I can stay by the fire and mend your socks and scream if I hear any strange noises. Third off - I loved the love. There was no falling in love at first sight, no shoe-horned love triangle and NO weird YA boy smells. I adored between Katsa and her beau (Po) and I will defend their love to my dying day. They have such a stable, healthy relationship (something that is woefully in short supply in YA).Katsa sat in the darkness of the Sunderan forest and understood three truths. She loved Po. She wanted Po. And she could never be anyone's but her own.If you are in the mood for quality YA lit - pick this series up. This is my fourth read through and I loved it as much as the first. The 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge - A book about a villian or antihero Audiobook Comments Holy mother of pearl. Full cast audio production - each character had a different actor/actress, there was music between chapters AND the kid voices sounded really realistic. An absolute pleasure to listen to. YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Snapchat @miranda.reads Happy Reading!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rhea

    What I think about when I hear the name... Po: - Po the Panda - Po from Telletubbies - A crazy guy (like Edgar Allen Poe) - Poo Katsa: - Ketchup - Mutant Katniss Ror: - Roar! I'm a T-Rex! Tealiff: - Tea Leaf Skye: - Skype - A modern name, which you will NOT find in a medieval place. King Randa: - Ranting + Panda. King Ranting Panda! Drowden: - Drowsy - Drowning Thigpen - Pig pen - Thinking pen Leck - Lick - Peck - Neck - Smack - Some other variation Lienid: - An insult. ("Hey, you Lienid!") By the way, Po's real name is Green What I think about when I hear the name... Po: - Po the Panda - Po from Telletubbies - A crazy guy (like Edgar Allen Poe) - Poo Katsa: - Ketchup - Mutant Katniss Ror: - Roar! I'm a T-Rex! Tealiff: - Tea Leaf Skye: - Skype - A modern name, which you will NOT find in a medieval place. King Randa: - Ranting + Panda. King Ranting Panda! Drowden: - Drowsy - Drowning Thigpen - Pig pen - Thinking pen Leck - Lick - Peck - Neck - Smack - Some other variation Lienid: - An insult. ("Hey, you Lienid!") By the way, Po's real name is Greening Grandemalion. Great, at least its not Yellowing Grandemalion or Purpling Grandemalion or something stupid like that. That would sound really weird, unlike Greening Grandemalion, which is a name someone would normally give to their child. Yeah... If you have any more suggestions about what the names from Graceling sound like, feel free to put it in the comments! Note: Next up is the review, which is very thorough about the issues of Graceling's worldbuilding. This is going to take a while, but stay with me. Thanks. Actual Rating: 2.5 stars When reviewers criticize Graceling, they often complain about the view on feminism. I think enough has been said about that, so for detailed reviews about that issue, I recommend Amanda's review and Tatiana's review. However, this isn't Graceling's only flaw. The other big problem is the black-and-white world-building. World of Graceling Graceling is set in a european-ish medieval land with horses, taverns, kings, castles, and anything else you would except to find in such a place. The land is divided into seven kingdoms: Lienid (the island kingdom), Monsea (a kingdom closed off by the mountains), Middluns (the middle kingdom), and Nander, Estill, Sunder, Wester, which surround Middluns on the North, East, South, and West side, respectively. (See what Cashore did there?) Another aspect is the Graced; some people are born with special abilities called "Graces" such as mind-reading, excellent swimming skills, killing, etc. There is great prejudice against the Graced (except in Lienid) and one can tell if another person is Graced if the person's eyes are mismatched colors. (Random comment: One of my friends has eyes like this. It's a condition called heterochromia iridum. But sadly, my friend has no superpowers. :( ) Anyways... I think we can all agree that European medieval worlds are definitely overdone; nearly every epic fantasy or high fantasy is set in one! However, authors can still make them fresh if they add complexity to them with new aspects or intriguing history. Examples of Fresh, Intriguing Worlds For example, in Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms, the generic fantasy world is made fresh by complex struggles between Gray Wolf Queens, Clan, and Wizards. There is a well-developed and unique culture in the world, stemming from the struggles between Clan and Wizards, and the history is complex and believable. Another example is The Well Between the Worlds. It is a retelling of the King Arthur tale, set in a medieval world, but adds the elements of the Wells, the sinking of Lyonnesse, and industrialization to make a breathtakingly fresh and original world. So, what's the matter with Graceling's world? Why Graceling's World-building Simply Isn't Good Enough First off, there are only a few fresh aspects of this world: 1.) The idea of the Graced 2.) Some cultural aspects of the Lienid (like the gold jewelry, Po's tattoos, and the ring/inheritance thing. ...and that's pretty much it. But there's got to be more! Anything! Tell me, is there... A religion? No. History? (Like references to why the kingdoms are how they are, etc?) Nope. Mythology/legends/stories about old heroes, Graced, etc.? No. Unique cultural aspects? None. Anything that separates the world of Graceling from other fantasies? I'm sorry, but there is, other than the Graced, nothing original here. Okay, okay, we get it! Nothing new here! But sometimes, generic fantasy worlds are complex. There are complex issues, complex characters, and complex motivations which make up for the lack of originality. In fact, a world lacking new ideas sometimes portrays old ideas in a new light! What about Graceling? Is there any complexity? Lack of complexity in Graceling Part One: The Inhabitants of the world EEEEEEVIL PEOPLE: - The villain, (view spoiler)[King Leck. (hide spoiler)] Why is he evil? Because he is! What does he do? Torture animals! He even (view spoiler)[killed his own wife! (hide spoiler)] He is so EEEEEVIL! - King Randa. Poor Katsa! Her EEEEEEVIL uncle is making her kill people! Does he feel the slightest guilt or remorse? No! Does he have a good reason for this? Yes, so he can be even more powerful! MWAHAHAHAHA! - Those other kings! (Except for King Ror, who is good.) They are always squabbling over borders and killing poor peasants and stuff. How horrible of them! They are so EEEEEVIL! And one of them even (view spoiler)[held a poor old guy prisoner, just so he could be rich! (hide spoiler)] MEAN people - Basically, everyone non-Graced. They just don't understand what it's like! Now that I think about it, all of Katsa's friends are either Graced or have a family member who is Graced (or are Lienid). The only exception is Oll. - Giddon. He is so condescending! And he doesn't understand Katsa! And he's so stupid, he thinks he can protect her! Even when she can kick his ass! This portrayal bugs me, because it feels like a gimmick to show how good Katsa is, and how she deserves a good man in her life, and blah blah blah. GOOD PEOPLE - Katsa is forced to kill people by her uncle. But wait, she is really good! Don't believe me? She created an organization called The Council, which does nice stuff! She is so angelic! Admittedly, Cashore did give her a few personality flaws, but not enough. I mean, when you can kill and entire army without even a sword, wouldn't you be extremely selfish and extremely spoiled? I admit, I would be. - Po. He is SOOOO noble! He still loves Katsa even if (view spoiler)[she won't marry him. (hide spoiler)] And his secret is OK. Yes, Katsa is mad, but he is SOOOOOOO nice she doesn't care. - Lienid people! They are so nice to the Graced! They respect them 'n stuff. - Everyone not in the MEAN or EEEEEVL section. They are brave, noble, etc. No one is ever a mixture of good and evil. Part Two: The World Itself The world of Graceling lacks nuance. When you look at the history of Europe, there are ancient alliances, complex relations, etc. between the countries. Not to mention, the citizens of each country see themselves in one way and see people from other countries in other way. There are stereotypes, symbols, legends, and histories that may or may not be real. (And not just in Europe, everywhere.) I was expecting well-developed relations between the kingdoms and between normal people and Graced people. I mean, Katsa and Po have to travel across many countries and I wanted to see them struggle against prejudices and stereotypes. However, they had had it extremely easy. Here is the extent to which all the relationships were developed: - Normal people hate the Graced! (For no apparent reason) All you see is a strong dislike, no complex feelings. (For example, being in awe of their powers, yet feeling jealous) - Kingdoms fight over borders. That is pretty much it. Their only dislike comes from border squabbles. And... that's about it. Anyways, reading Graceling was an underwhelming experience. I mean, the first time I read it, I was in middle school, and even then I was disappointed! Recommendations: Many people loved this book. You might too, if you: 1.) Love a good kick-ass heroine 2.) Are looking for a fun adventure 3.) Want lots of action in your fantasy 4.) Love reading about kind, noble men in love with misfit girls But you might not if you: 1.) Are looking for a deep exploration of feminist ideas 2.) Require complex, original world-building 3.) Need complex characters 4.) Want a complex plot Final Comment: Graceling isn't a bad book. For me it was 2.5 stars (2.5 = a little more enjoyable than "meh") There is some decent character development, some exciting action, and a somewhat original plot. Also, other than the overwrought feminism, Graceling doesn't have any big flaws that might insult the reader and completely ruin the reading experience. There was also some humor and some quotable moments, my favorite being, “When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?” during a moment of poignant character introspection. (Speaking of that, there were some great ideas concerning what it means to be a monster.) All of this made Graceling an OK book. However, Graceling feels like an edited draft - there are good ideas, good editing, but nothing is really fleshed out. Let's hope in future books, Cashore spends more time on her story. Alternatives: - For a complex fantasy, Seven Realms is an terrific four-book series. Book 1 (The Demon King) is mostly a set-up book, with fantastic world-building, but familiar (and somewhat cliche) characters. Book 2 (The Exiled Queen) is great; the characters deepen, and the plot thickens. Book 3 (The Gray Wolf Throne) is absolutely stunning; intricate plotlines come perfectly together, characterization is amazing, and the tension is almost unbearable. And Book 4 (The Crimson Crown) is the kind of book so jaw-droppingly amazing, you feel like crying just because the book ENDED. - For a (urban-ish) fantasy/Para-Normal Romance, (don't worry, there romance isn't annoying]) with a totally kick-ass heroine, original world-building, and gorgeous prose, check out Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. - For a short, rich fantasy (that won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award) with a strong heroine who is selfish (but gets better) and has a coming-of-age story, I recommend Franny Billingsley's The Folk Keeper. There is also an exciting mystery (with more than one twist), and just the tiniest dash of romance. Plus, as a bonus, the prose is lovely. - I've heard that the The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner are fantastic, especially those after book 1 (The Thief.) I admit, I have not read them yet, but book 1 won the Newberry Honor medal, and many "picky" reviewers say they are fantastic. - The Well Between the Worlds by Sam Llewelyn is also a terrific, original novel. Yes, it is a children's book (ages 10+) but so was His Dark Materials. And just like His Dark Materials, TWBTW is sophisticated, well-written, and a lot of fun. And isn't it said that a good children's book can be enjoyed by adults as well? Anyways, I hope this review helps anyone thinking about whether or not they should read Graceling. Random: Those of you not familiar with the Teletubbies theme song, this might seem weird. But I hope you can sympathize with my frustration with the Graceling names. So, here is a parody: (view spoiler)[The Graceling/Teletubbies Parody *To the tune of the Teletubby theme song* Tinkywinky...Dipsey...Katsa...Po... Teletubbies... Graceling people... say... he... llo! (hide spoiler)]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elle (TheBookishActress)

    When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else? This is one of my most reread books of all time, and it was such a big influence on both what I write and what I love to read, and I love and appreciate it more every time. I think this book is a little bit... misunderstood, sometimes. Graceling opens as Katsa, a character graced with the skill to kill people—literally, actually murder them—puts a group of guards out cold rather When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else? This is one of my most reread books of all time, and it was such a big influence on both what I write and what I love to read, and I love and appreciate it more every time. I think this book is a little bit... misunderstood, sometimes. Graceling opens as Katsa, a character graced with the skill to kill people—literally, actually murder them—puts a group of guards out cold rather than killing them while trying to rescue a falsely imprisoned old man. She then returns to her palace, where she is thought of and treated as a weapon for a cruel king. She thinks of herself as a dog, and a brute, and an idiot, until she and a new friend move to track down the answers to a mystery dogging a nearby kingdom. Katsa prizes her mind: it is the only she has ever had to herself. One of the first things we learn of her is her hatred for mind readers, and while this serves a plot purpose, it also ties in well with her other fears: Her body and power has for so long been Randa’s, as a weapon. But she is not a weapon. Though Katsa could, and would, kill the bad guy to survive a horror movie, she also does the right thing, or tries. She cares for other people, in her own stubborn and angry way. To move anywhere beyond her own self-image, she must go from thinking of herself as a killer, a monster, a weapon, to thinking of herself as a justice-seeker. She must find love (Po), and allow herself to care for those around her (Bitterblue). And she must go from thinking of her talent as a curse to thinking of it as a tool. The graces are a neutral element—both good and bad, depending on their use. The thing about the climax of Katsa's character arc is that it isn’t defined by violence: it’s defined by Katsa regaining power over her mind. (view spoiler)[It isn’t a great feat that she kills; we know all along that she can kill anyone she wants. It is the fact that she kills someone as he tries to control her mind that is so important. Her conflict is never about her physical power but about her love for Bitterblue and Po. And she wrests back mental control not through her grace, but through her love for other people. (hide spoiler)] It’s a bit of a subversion of the chosen one narrative, because though her power saves her many times along the way, in the final moment, it isn’t her grace that saves her but her mental strength. Herself. It helps that Katsa is a genuinely funny narrator, who causes problems on purpose, and has absolutely no people skills except when she tries really, really hard. I think traits like this can be frustrating in a narrative because so often they're used as lazy plot devices. Katsa, however, is just hilarious. Iconic of her. ♖ The romance is pitch-perfect. Some of you may know that I'm a bit picky around romance plots, but Katsa and Po are... frankly the book couple. Their interactions are hilarious; Po is a genuinely good guy, rather than being a Tough Scary Bad Dude, and he's a dynamic character on his own. “Wonderful,” Po said. “It's quite boring really, the way you beat me to death with your hands and feet, Katsa. It'll be refreshing to have you come at me with a knife.” Cashore also does so well by all her side characters. Bitterblue is an entertaining and dynamic character, and in fact, she gets her own book later on. Po, Raffin, and Giddon are all incredibly vivid characters [and they all get more later]. It's kind of incredible how human all of these characters are, how they never feel like plot devices. ♜ I love an engaging narrative. I think the plot is really interesting - it's not exactly twisty, but you never jump ahead of the characters in what you figure out - and although much of the book is spent on a journey, there's so much character and relationship building that I never got bored. (I have literally read this book, what, over twenty times?) I also love Cashore's writing; it feels so classic fantasy in a good way? God. Fucking love it. ♖ This book features a genuinely strong and developed gender non-conforming woman as a protagonist, who does not get married, with a really great lady friendship at its heart. I would love if people would stop being upset by the first two of those points. To be quite honest, the fact that some reviewers have decided Katsa not being feminine is a problem is kind of fucked up. I love that you lend your support to feminine heroines, but identifying having any women who don’t conform to femininity as “the not like other girls trope” is actually just misogynistic. It’s also not an accurate view of what that trope is. First of all, not-like-other-girls is meant to denote heroines who actively shit on feminine women (which does not happen in this book). But more importantly, I hate so much that literature for women is a double-bind: you have to be feminine, but also hate femininity and those who express it. Katsa is genuinely not feminine-presenting. I wrote a whole post about this. Gender non-conforming women are not taking over your literature; feminine women who also hate femininity are. “But no amount of humility or respect made it any less horrifying to lose control.” Katsa, as a character, does not want to get married. She specifically does not want marriage, as stated in the text, because any freedom Po could give her would be just that: given. She’s a character who is terrified to cede control of herself to someone, not when she has just escaped that, and the narrative—and her lover—don’t force her to do so. I have seen far too many people complain about this book's “raging feminist agenda”. Okay? A woman makes choices that are realistic to her character? Deeply lukewarm take. ♜ On a side note, remember in like, 2010, when YA was a hellscape and you had to like, beg for just one damn side character of color? Let me run this book, published in 2008, down for you: gnc woman helps save a biracial woman of color from persecution while falling in love with disabled man of color because he recognizes that she will always feel the need to be the strong one. [I will also note that after getting criticism for the use of a slightly ableist trope surrounding one blind character, she apologized in her author's note and improved his treatment in later books.] Book two: bi black woman, survivor of abuse and rape, falls in love with black man because he's good to her and treats her like a person rather than a possession. Book three: biracial woman dealing with ptsd tries to rule a kingdom while falling in love with a bi man of color and also, fighting for a return to her old culture and to freedom of the press with the assistance of her many gay friends [including three side characters from this book and two lesbians who run a print shop]. ♖ Oddly, one of my favorite parts of this series is how different and awesome each book is . Graceling is an action-adventure story about redemption and self-hatred. Fire is a political story about agency, rape culture, and abusive relationships, both domestic and parental. Bitterblue is a slow-burn mystery, character study, and bildungsroman about a nation growing up and letting go, all wrapped in one. All three of these books are executed so well that your favorite will depend mostly on what themes touch you the most. For me, Graceling and Bitterblue [which I reviewed here hey hey hey] are the standouts to me personally, but they're honestly all great. The love I have for this series is so neverending. In summary: this book honestly still has me by the throat in 2020, and is one of my favorite books of all time, and I wish that we could pay it its dues. It is worth reading. Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | Youtube | About |

  8. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    Updated 04/01/14: I happen to like books which feature kick-ass feminist heroines and are light on the romance so I should like this book, right? Yeah, but I don't. First of all, Katsa acts like a petulant little girl throughout the entire book, not some strong feminist poster woman. Katsa shows very little, if any, personal growth over the course of this novel. Also, I felt like the author spent too much time trying to sell us on the following ideas: femininity is an idea forced upon women by t Updated 04/01/14: I happen to like books which feature kick-ass feminist heroines and are light on the romance so I should like this book, right? Yeah, but I don't. First of all, Katsa acts like a petulant little girl throughout the entire book, not some strong feminist poster woman. Katsa shows very little, if any, personal growth over the course of this novel. Also, I felt like the author spent too much time trying to sell us on the following ideas: femininity is an idea forced upon women by the patriarchy, men don't respect women, commitment ruins relationships, marriage is a tool of the devil, and so on. Look, I understand that some women feel that way, and I'm completely cool with it. I'd be lying if I claimed that I've never thought some of the same things during my lifetime. That said, I hate how the author seems to be shoving very specific views down my throat instead of telling me a story that challenges me to think for myself. This book is written in such a way that it makes me think Cashore, the author, is using her character, her story as a vehicle to voice her very strong opinions. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily have a problem with that sort of thing, it's just that this book is being touted as 'feminist' but I fail to see true feminism within the pages of this book. I mean, I guess you could consider it a version of feminism, but it's not very inclusionary. In fact, it's a very bigoted version of feminism. Other than Katsa every other woman in this book is portrayed as weak and dumb. So basically unless you're an angry, dress-hating, man-hating woman with an aversion to commitment there is something wrong with you. News Flash: femininity isn't anti-feminist. I'm sorry but it is possible for independent, intelligent and stable women to embrace femininity without losing credibility. And anyway, isn't that the point of the feminist movement? Gaining equality without having to act like 'one of the guys'? I mean, sure, you can reject femininity if you want, but don't go around assuming that those who are feminine are pathetic weakling losers who do nothing to help the cause. It just so turns out that line of thought is backward and does nothing to advance the cause. Also, Katsa's view of other women in the realm is quite condescending in that she never seems to consider how privileged she is compared to some of these other women. Katsa's lucky in that she has the ability to kill pretty much anyone she wants so it's not like she has to do a damn thing anyone tells her to do. Despite all the crap she supposedly has to put up with, Katsa has benefitted from an education and she's also afforded more freedoms than most women because someone else pays her bills. She doesn't have to milk the cows or churn butter or become a serving wench. She doesn't have to prostitute herself out in order to make ends meet. Girlfriend needs to shut the hell up about all that because it's not like she's doing anything other than making a-hole observations. Katsa's not doing anything to change the way all women in the realm are treated, which is fine, it's her life, whatever. She just needs to quit it with the judgmental attitude toward others who can't afford to live or think the way she does. I could have handled Katsa's aversion to having a relationship with Poe if she hadn't had any feelings for him, or if she knew she wasn't emotionally ready to make any sort of commitment. But no, Katsa's aversion to commitment was built up do be some great personal strength of hers. In the end it just felt like she ('she' being Katsa. Or Cashore. Kat-Shore?) was trying to prove a point or something, like "look at how independent I am. I'm not a barnacle. I don't need a man...except for when I needs teh sex. So Poe, my lover, sorry you lost your sight and all but I'll prolly be drunk-dialing you in the future, cause I am comfortable with my sexuality. kthanxbai." *sob* "Walking away is waaaaay hard, which is why I am so strong." *sob* "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrl Powerrrrrr!" Yeah, because being in a loving, trusting, equal and committed relationship isn't a sign of strength. Strength can only be had by loners who don't like to commit because doing so will supposedly lower their self-worth ...ummm....I mean..."independent" people. Also, it has to be said: The love scene grosses me out as much or more than the sex scene(s) in Titanic and/or Avatar. Some people just don't know how to write a love scene. James Cameron and Kristin Cashore are among that group. One last thing: why is it that no one seems to have an issue with Katsa hitting Po, literally knocking him to the ground so hard that he bruises? All he did was voice his opinion, that's it. Had the tables been turned, had Po hit Katsa for voicing her opinion, you people would be unbelievably angry. I'm sure some of you would be burning Cashore in effigy. Let's do a little more of this whole turning tables thing. Pretend that Katsa is actually a male character and Po is female. Okay, how much do you love this new topsy-turvy version of Graceling? Not very much, you say? Yeah, I thought so. If you ask me Katsa is one of the least deserving protagonists. She's a violent, judgmental a-hole who shows little to no personal growth over the course of this entire book. I don't care if she had a difficult childhood, having a difficult childhood doesn't mean you have to go around inflicting the worst parts of yourself on others. Having a difficult childhood doesn't give you license to be an awful person. Two stars because the concept was cool. Too bad it was poorly executed.

  9. 5 out of 5

    karen

    it is so hard to write reviews for books i actually like. no, love. talking about this book is like trying to describe to someone a relationship from long ago that was bittersweet and is now over, but i have never had a relationship that involved so many horses and swordplay, not even metaphorically. and fewer people care about my love life than about this book. (i see you ariel - you are glowering at me with tiny slitted eyes) but this book is like a wonderfully sweet relationship. at the beginni it is so hard to write reviews for books i actually like. no, love. talking about this book is like trying to describe to someone a relationship from long ago that was bittersweet and is now over, but i have never had a relationship that involved so many horses and swordplay, not even metaphorically. and fewer people care about my love life than about this book. (i see you ariel - you are glowering at me with tiny slitted eyes) but this book is like a wonderfully sweet relationship. at the beginning, you can't even imagine how you ever got along without it.and your friends (ariel) try to talk you out of it "oh, don't get with that guy, he gave me herpes" or whatever... but at the beginning everything was shiny and magical and when things started to go a little bit awry, i wrote it off as a glitch - a bad day that didn't necessarily mean that we weren't super awesome soulmates. (because it's true - the "girl time in the mountain" sequence was the weakest, but i really thought the book rebounded to perfection afterward. we can forgive one drunken dalliance, can't we? one lapse in judgment?? what happens n graceling stays in graceling? yes?) i just loved so much about this book - i never ever get invested in the love story side plots of these teen fiction books - i have yet to be on a "team". but this time, i fully believed in their attraction, and i really wanted these crazy kids to get together and kick ass together forever. their fighting scenes, when they were fighting each other, were hugely erotic,and for once the male lead seemed worthy in a way that others have not been. their shyness, their tenderness.... i found it very sweet. and if i was a crying type of girl, i would definitely have cried at this one. so i am seriously bummed that the sequel is about the early life and times of king lamewad and not about anyone i actually cared about. but i will probably read it anyway, completist that i am. and eventually, because i think i have largely abandoned this metaphor, and it is very important to follow through, even though there were bumps in the road and people got hurt and friends were less free with advice in the future, the experience was a generally positive one, and the memory lives on as an Important Time where everything seemed possible. even liking a book ariel said was bad... come to my blog!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Okay, so this was a re-read on audio and I thought it was really cool with the multiple narrators and music and stuff. But sometimes one of the voices rubbed me the wrong way and the music went from fantasy to what sounded like western music. Lol. Maybe it was just me! I still loved the book though =) I am in love with Katsa! She is an awesome inspiration for women warriors in a book. She kicks arse and takes names. I love the fact that she doesn't care anything about marriage or having kids. Sh Okay, so this was a re-read on audio and I thought it was really cool with the multiple narrators and music and stuff. But sometimes one of the voices rubbed me the wrong way and the music went from fantasy to what sounded like western music. Lol. Maybe it was just me! I still loved the book though =) I am in love with Katsa! She is an awesome inspiration for women warriors in a book. She kicks arse and takes names. I love the fact that she doesn't care anything about marriage or having kids. She's like my hero. I need a tshirt!!! I wish I had her Grace :) The characters in the book are so wonderful, even the evil jerks are played out very well. I was so happy when Katsa met Po! Are they made for each other or what?! I don't like what happened to Po though :( I have a special place in my heart for Oll, Raffin, Bann, Bitterblue and Helda. These are some wonderful characters with a great family/friendship. Katsa isn't like normal women, well that's obvious, but she doesn't care about any of the every day things women care about. She even hates her long hair because it's in her way of doing what she's trying to do :) Katsa is Randa's mercenary and her, Oll and Giddon go out to do his bidding, although it's Katsa that dishes out the pain. After some time she starts to get tired of doing this to people. You will have to read the book to see where that goes. Giddon is a good person, he just doesn't really understand Katsa and wants too much. I enjoyed all of the fighting and sparring between Po and Katsa. I loved when she was in a real fight too :) Not very many, but they were the best. Then again, most people would walk or run away when they saw her coming anyway. She's that bad and scary ! :) Did I mention Katsa has some cool eyes! A lot of the Gracelings have different eyes from everyone else, but Katsa has some beautiful ones. I am so glad I finally got to read this book, it is sooooo awesome!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lily C

    Watch my review here: https://youtu.be/4h7n2qCWtlQ Watch my review here: https://youtu.be/4h7n2qCWtlQ

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    This is why it's so fun to revisit and reread an old book. It's amazing to remember the discourse around this novel 12 years ago. A revolutionary teen fantasy with a heroine who doesn't want to marry! and have kids! also periods and birth control are mentioned! So much debate and ranting, in which I participated too, to my embarrassment. (Should I delete my ramblings or leave my stupidity for posterity?) Does anyone care about people not committing to marriage or childbearing anymore? Certainly This is why it's so fun to revisit and reread an old book. It's amazing to remember the discourse around this novel 12 years ago. A revolutionary teen fantasy with a heroine who doesn't want to marry! and have kids! also periods and birth control are mentioned! So much debate and ranting, in which I participated too, to my embarrassment. (Should I delete my ramblings or leave my stupidity for posterity?) Does anyone care about people not committing to marriage or childbearing anymore? Certainly not me. I did find the hand-wringing about the supposed horrors of marriage a bit much here, but it's a part of Katsa's personality, so be it. I found the fantasy setting and world-building quite sparse, if not lacking, but I still liked the simplicity of Cashore's writing and clarity of feeling she described in Graceling. Not a fave, but good. _________ Update 1/24/2012. I probably should already stop being surprised by the fact that every time I reread a book, I come up with something new to say (or feel) about it. Looks like my previous reading of Graceling caused a lengthy rant. Yeah, no such strong feelings this time. This time, I was able to appreciate the writing more. It's lovely. I really love how it flows, how the sentences connect. This book stands the test of time. And it's great that it stirs so much discussion and, often, outrage. But, but, but. On a personal level, I still disagree with some of Katsa's views. There is a paragraph in the middle of the novel that is especially jarring to my sensibilities. If she took Po as her husband, she would be making promises about a future she couldn't yet see. For once she became his wife, she would be his forever. And, no matter how much freedom Po gave her, she would always know that it was a gift. Her freedom would be not be her own; it would be Po's to give or to withhold. That he never would withhold it made no difference. If it did not come from her, it was not really hers. The way I see it, there is a fundamental flaw in Katsa's logic. This notion that marriage takes one's freedom, that once you unite with someone, your spouse controls you. This is not what I believe in. I am leaving my previous review of the book too. At the moment, I don't feel as strongly about the issues I was so eager to target back then. But who knows what I will feel in a few years? Previously This is my second reading of "Graceling" and I found myself enjoying it probably even more than when I read it the first time. I am once again convinced that Cashore is a very talented writer with a great future ahead of her. "Graceling" is Cashore's first novel and what a great debut it is! Now, having read her second book "Fire," I know that she is developing as a writer in many ways. This particular book is very imaginative, the idea of Graces is original (at least to me) and intriguing - I especially enjoy the fact that the Graces are never what they appear to be at first. They are complex and ever evolving. I also appreciate Cashore's writing style - it is simple, concise, but yet very descriptive and emotional. What greatly frustrates me about Cashore's writing, and the main reason I find it impossible for myself to give her books 5 stars, is ultimate weakness of her heroines (both Katsa and Fire) and their strange and obsessive attitudes toward marriage and children. (view spoiler)[Katsa is supposedly an independent woman who wants nobody to take care of her. I understand this desire for independence very well. For the longest time I myself refused idea of marriage and I don't have kids, but even I find Katsa's unyielding desire to never marry or to commit strange, considering her journey in this novel. The saddest thing about this book is definitely the epilogue. It is so unsatisfying to me that Katsa, even after all her adventures and all the proof of Po's love and devotion to her, still chooses to do "as she pleases" - to go about her business leaving Po behind to be her occasional lover, to make sure she does not "stop him from loving anyone else." I can't stop myself from asking - is this really love? to go as you please and leave the man you love to look for someone else to love? is this really love to make your own choices without factoring in your partner and your partner's wishes into your plans for the future? is this love when you decide what will happen in your life and your partner settles for anything you can give him, no matter how little it is? My answer is "no." I am not propagating marriage here in any way, but I do feel that Katsa at the least is insecure and doesn't trust Po's love for her and at the most is selfish in her petulant decision to stay her own woman by refusing any claim Po can possible have on her (be that a wife or a life partner). I fail to understand why Katsa thinks that marrying Po or committing herself to him fully would ever put constraints on her independence? Does she know him at all? If she trusts Po so little, why is she with him? If all she wants is sex, can't she find a man who is as afraid of commitment as she is? Why hurt Po so? And how long such relationship can last while Katsa is being her own woman and encouraging Po to go around looking for someone else to love? In the end, I just feel that Cashore here lost an opportunity to show Katsa's emotional growth. I don't mean that marriage to Po would have proven her to be a better person, but the ability to fully commit and to surrender to and to trust her partner, certainly would. In my eyes, Katsa starts her journey being scared of trusting people and fearful of commitment, and ends it without changing in any significant way. It makes me sad for her, because in real life people stuck on their trust issues, people who do not grow and change and learn to trust, fail their relationships over and over again. Cashore tries to portray Katsa's decision as a triumph of her independence, but for me it is merely an indication of a victory of Katsa's fears over her life experiences. And here is the last argument I am going to make against the message of this book. Imagine if it were Po who made Katsa's decisions - Po who says he will never marry Katsa, Po who will never agree to give her children, Po who will ride around going about his business and occasionally meeting Katsa for hook-ups. What would we call such a man? A commitment-phobic pig? And yet, we call Katsa a feminist and a strong woman. There is a disconnect here somewhere, don't you think? Katsa and Po will appear in Cashore's next book "Bitterblue" and I am very curious to see where she is planning to take their relationship. I wish them happiness, but with current attitude of Katsa's I simply don't see it happening. (hide spoiler)] I understand that this rant might seem like a petty nitpicking, but I guess I appreciate Cashore's writing too much to leave my personal feelings about this book unexpressed. Reading challenge: #8

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    (My amazing friend Lea, at drumsofautumn, gave this to me as a birthday gift!) 💖 this had a bit of a slow start, but oh my word was the last 50% a 6 star read. i loved this. truly. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch (My amazing friend Lea, at drumsofautumn, gave this to me as a birthday gift!) 💖 this had a bit of a slow start, but oh my word was the last 50% a 6 star read. i loved this. truly. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch

  14. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    this is a really good 'in the moment' kind of story. i felt pretty present and engaged whilst reading it, but i havent thought about this once since ive finished it... which makes me kinda question what i actually liked about it. the concept of the graced is cool, but i couldnt really tell you anything about them other than they exist. the writing itself is decent, but the pacing is slow and the story drawn out. there is a satisfying ending, but the climax happens within the blink of a sentence a this is a really good 'in the moment' kind of story. i felt pretty present and engaged whilst reading it, but i havent thought about this once since ive finished it... which makes me kinda question what i actually liked about it. the concept of the graced is cool, but i couldnt really tell you anything about them other than they exist. the writing itself is decent, but the pacing is slow and the story drawn out. there is a satisfying ending, but the climax happens within the blink of a sentence and then everything just immediately moves on, with no time for impact. so some good and some bad. this book is adequate entertainment for what it is, but nothing that will have a long-lasting effect on me. ↠ 3 stars

  15. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Darling

    Loved it. Except for the raging feminist agenda. NOTE: Since these two brief, flippant sentences have gotten so many trolls over the years, I'll just add that I support the book's feminist ideals 100%. What I do not like is the way we're hammered over the head with the message. (The "raging" part, if you will.) It's inelegant, tiresome soapboxing that managed to annoy someone who actually agrees with the principles, so I don't know how it's going to persuade anyone who does not. Katsa's views als Loved it. Except for the raging feminist agenda. NOTE: Since these two brief, flippant sentences have gotten so many trolls over the years, I'll just add that I support the book's feminist ideals 100%. What I do not like is the way we're hammered over the head with the message. (The "raging" part, if you will.) It's inelegant, tiresome soapboxing that managed to annoy someone who actually agrees with the principles, so I don't know how it's going to persuade anyone who does not. Katsa's views also express the kind of feminism that seem to be extremely critical of other women's choices, which I found off-putting. There's a lengthy discussion below where I go into my feelings further with people who are discussing in a reasonable manner, although I certainly don't need to justify my opinions to those who are only interested in telling people off on the internet. Nice job on not bothering to do 2 seconds' more research, but hey. Self-righteous outrage is so much easier. But you know, people who don't agree with the book's feminine philosophy actually do have a right to that opinion, too. Why is it so goddamned difficult to respect that? That doesn't seem to be in the spirit of independent thinking and free will that feminism is purportedly all about. I've come to realize that I probably shouldn't have used the word "agenda," however. As someone who believes that women are capable of carving out whatever life they want (though, I might add, Katsa is not nearly so tolerant of other women's choices) and not being as aware of how politically charged that word has become in denigrating causes/beliefs, I didn't read the same kinds of negative connotations into it that clearly others have. An unfortunate choice in words that I've come to regret.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    Gah sooo good! Okay, I read some of the other reviews and now I feel the need to defend this book. Basically, I think it's completely hilarious how many people are shocked and appalled that 1) there is sex in this book, and 2) the heroine does not desire to get married or have children. Guess what? Young adults *do* have sex. And the idea that it's not love if you don't want to marry them, or that you shouldn't have sex until you're married is why all the poor children in your congregation are ma Gah sooo good! Okay, I read some of the other reviews and now I feel the need to defend this book. Basically, I think it's completely hilarious how many people are shocked and appalled that 1) there is sex in this book, and 2) the heroine does not desire to get married or have children. Guess what? Young adults *do* have sex. And the idea that it's not love if you don't want to marry them, or that you shouldn't have sex until you're married is why all the poor children in your congregation are marrying the first person they have the hots for and getting divorces at 24 with 3 kids. Also, the fact that the heroine doesn't want to get married or have kids is shocking to you because EVERY OTHER WOMAN OR GIRL IN EVERY BOOK YOU'VE READ THIS YEAR is aiming for that brass ring of Mrs.-dom and 2.5 mini-Hims. Why should you be so concerned that this one book is going to crumble the foundation stones of your Evangelical God Mall? Instead of your pearl-clutching, maybe take a moment to think: wait, is it possible to have ovaries but not idealize wedded bliss? Even if your parents died young, your only parental figure uses you as a weapon, and you're basically incapable of forming bonds with people because everyone's terrified of you and always has been and as a result you're emotionally stunted? No, must just be some ranty feminist (oooooh) agenda! Blergh. Go back to your Stephenie Meyer. Now I feel better.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)

    4 Stars Overview: “When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?” I honestly didn’t know anything about this, but I'd seen it around and finally it was recommended enough. I was really surprised by the depth of this story and the characters. The story revolves around Katsa, who lives in a world where people can be born with a ‘Grace.’ Meaning, aside from two-different eye colors, they have an exceptional skill. Katsa’s grace is kill 4 Stars Overview: “When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?” I honestly didn’t know anything about this, but I'd seen it around and finally it was recommended enough. I was really surprised by the depth of this story and the characters. The story revolves around Katsa, who lives in a world where people can be born with a ‘Grace.’ Meaning, aside from two-different eye colors, they have an exceptional skill. Katsa’s grace is killing, for which she has served as a sort of ‘thug’ for her king. Pros: Can I just say how much I loved Po? He was such a strong, dynamic character. I really appreciated that he wasn’t weakened to further enunciate Katsa’s power—he’s just strong in different ways. (I'm also kind of in love with him) This is slow-burn done right. The romance didn’t spin in needless circles, but developed naturally as the characters interacted with each other more. Overall, the plot was exceptionally creative. The world-building was handled with care and I really could picture these lands. The villain was terrifying and well-set-up. Their skill is especially interesting and terrifying to me, and I found myself wanting more of their backstory. There’s a really fantastic discussion regarding romantic relationships and compromising one’s self. I love how incredibly healthy I found this romance. There’s marked discussion about the differences between training/fighting and striking out in anger (which is not seen as okay). I love how Katsa starts this novel not wanting children (she doesn’t hate them—she just doesn’t want to be a mother) or to marry, and this decision remains the same despite falling in love. Really, it’s not often for a positive portrayal of a woman who doesn’t want kids and/or views marriage as a social contract (which is even more pronounced in this world) and I really appreciated this. Katsa's overall character arc is gradual but definite. Her development was handled exceptionally, and she really ends this book changed completely. Cons: I had a few issues with the pacing—namely the climax seems a surprise, and there’s a lot of time spent talking afterwards. Giddon seems to exist to represent a sort of benevolent sexism. I really appreciated the way this was portrayed, and his words to Katsa are certainly something several modern women are familiar with: "You're not an unnatural woman, Katsa. […] You'll want babies. I'm certain of it." What I didn’t like about Giddon was how random his feelings for Katsa seemed. She seems the exact opposite of the tradition he favors and nothing like a woman he would want running his household. I wish this had been expanded upon or given more depth, because it felt like this plot existed only to fit in such quotes. I didn’t quite like how Po gave Katsa permission to “knock him out” when she needed time to herself, but do think he was an important decision for her to make regarding her development. Most of the criticism I see for this seems to revolve around it being “feminist propaganda.” Which I find a little ridiculous I think the complaints are mostly about how powerful Katsa is—and I will admit she does border on being really over powered. But I found her emotions more flawed and complex, and her overall arc much more fascinating. My main problem is that Katsa seems to be the only portrayal of a ‘strong’ woman in the story. I don’t have a problem with a woman refusing dresses and long hair and conforming to more typically ‘masculine’ standards, but I had wish it was better expressed this isn’t the only depiction of a strong woman. There are other females characters, like Bitterblue and Helda, but they don’t have near as much impact or depth. In Conclusion: This was a surprisingly introspective fantasy with interesting characters and worlds! I was really surprised by the depth of this book and the intelligence of the writing, though I had a few minor issues.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    [This is a review of an advance copy.:] While Cashore shows herself to be a promising writer in many respects, this book could have used a better editing job, especially with the pacing, the climax and the dénouement. Other points: 1. The dialogue she put in the ten-year-old princess's mouth was not believable in the slightest; maybe Cashore should spend some time around pre-adolescent girls to get an idea of what they really talk like. 2. The psychology of several of the characters (including Kats [This is a review of an advance copy.:] While Cashore shows herself to be a promising writer in many respects, this book could have used a better editing job, especially with the pacing, the climax and the dénouement. Other points: 1. The dialogue she put in the ten-year-old princess's mouth was not believable in the slightest; maybe Cashore should spend some time around pre-adolescent girls to get an idea of what they really talk like. 2. The psychology of several of the characters (including Katsa, the protagonist) is described rather than motivated, which made it hard for me to follow/believe certain pivotal points in the plot. 3. The villain only appears twice, each time extremely briefly, and is never fully sketched. 4. Cashore is weak in terms of description in general. Several scenes--including the climax!--are very low on descriptive language, which had a very distancing effect. The idea of "superheroes" in a semi-medieval setting is interesting, but it could have been handled better than it was here.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryn

    This was pretty much one of the most irritating books of all time - and consistent with my idea of YA fantasy. But I fought my way through it because, goshdarnit, I picked it up at the library, dragged it home with a load of other books and groceries, and renewed it the max number of times - I was gonna finish it. You know the kickbutt heroine who is just totally kickbutt and doesn't need no one, no way, no how, and yet loves and feels and hurts deeply and yet keeps everyone away because she is b This was pretty much one of the most irritating books of all time - and consistent with my idea of YA fantasy. But I fought my way through it because, goshdarnit, I picked it up at the library, dragged it home with a load of other books and groceries, and renewed it the max number of times - I was gonna finish it. You know the kickbutt heroine who is just totally kickbutt and doesn't need no one, no way, no how, and yet loves and feels and hurts deeply and yet keeps everyone away because she is baaaaaad? Yeah, that one. I hate her. You know the quiet, loving hero who worships the ground his heroine walks on and yet is reasonably kickbutt himself, while at the same time deferring to the heroine's wishes and not fulfilling any of his own? I hate him, too. Katsa was a child, and I hated that she and Po meandered their way into a sexual relationship because of 'twu wuv' and the fact that she would be tied down if she married. By golly, dontcha know you don't have to be married to have sex and lead a wonderful, fulfilling life? Now imagine the situation reversed - if Po had fallen in 'twu wuv' with Katsa, but would never contemplate marriage because he thought it would tie him down and keep him from true freedom... Wow, that would be really, really sexist. And lame. But if a woman does it to the man whom she loves (and who loves her in return), it's a point for us rockin' feminists. Please. Please. For the love of good fantasy fiction, let's write and read about realistic characters and remember that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I would have hated it if Po had refused to marry Katsa for the reasons stated above, but neither do I enjoy it when the poor guy's just supposed to be some worthless blob waiting for her to come home from her adventures, beat him at fights, and then run off into the wild blue yonder again. Isn't marriage/love supposed to be a give-and-take between equals? If Katsa had scorned marriage in the beginning and rethought her view after learning that Po's love would never keep her bound, there would have been something to say in defense of this novel. I suppose the idea of the Grace and the Kingdoms, etc. was good, but the childish, flat chracters and overdone prose made it a difficult, boring read that could have been halved and still felt too long. And best wishes to the youth who read this and decide that sex isn't a big deal, that it can happen as long as you KNOW you're in love (because, obviously, it's easy to know when you're that age), and that 'marriage' is a synonym for 'slavery'.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sana

    2.5 stars. This started off really well and I was actually enjoying it, but around page 230 I started to drift away from the plot and (view spoiler)[Po's sudden love confession for Katsa (hide spoiler)] really annoyed me because I did not like their romantic relationship. The plot started to bore me and I suddenly disliked Katsa's character after page 230 or somewhere around that. ◆I love love LOVED Katsa's character in the beginning. She's graced with the power to fight and kill unlike any huma 2.5 stars. This started off really well and I was actually enjoying it, but around page 230 I started to drift away from the plot and (view spoiler)[Po's sudden love confession for Katsa (hide spoiler)] really annoyed me because I did not like their romantic relationship. The plot started to bore me and I suddenly disliked Katsa's character after page 230 or somewhere around that. ◆I love love LOVED Katsa's character in the beginning. She's graced with the power to fight and kill unlike any human. She's a strong, badass character and I really loved and connected to her. I, too, am a tomboy who wrestles and it was nice to read about a relatable character. She was interesting and I really saw her develop throughout the novel from interesting to boring. :) ◆I loved the killing. Seriously, it's the best thing about this book. ○Spoiler??? I hated Po and Katsa's romance. I really liked them as friends, but when Po suddenly declared his love for Katsa, I MAY HAVE SCREAMED IN MY HEAD AND STARTED SWEARING ANGRILY BECAUSE NO. THEY ARE THE WORST COUPLE EVER. I saw no development in their relationship. I was just reading, then dozing off bc #bored AND BOOM, all of a sudden Po is like "I LOVE YOU" *tears stream down Katsa's face*. Literally, hated them as a couple. I HATED IT. ○Like I mentioned, this started off really well, but then around page 230 I started to drift away from the plot and started losing interest big time. The next 250? pages were a big blur of what-the-fuck-is-happening and I'm-seriously-fucking-bored. I literally tried so hard not to fall asleep, like,I WAS SO FUCKING BORED. ○The plot. ... Lol, what. Overall, I have no idea of what i just read and I'm tired as fuck right now. ------------------------------------ 5-ish years ago when I was discovering YA novels, I came across this book. I read two pages of this and then DNFed it. I don't even know what was wrong with me because this book sounds so awesome and I really hope it turns out good. (ELISE, I'M LOOKING AT YOU, lol!)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wren (fablesandwren)

    WrensReads Review: If you know anything about me, you’ll know that Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine are two authors that have dreamed up books that made a handprint on my childhood. They are lively and they are uplifting and they shine girls in a light that the media and history turn a blind eye to. Well, now I am going to add Kristin Cashmore to that list. She writes exactly like those two ladies mentioned about, but for a slightly older age group. She grasps the fairytale feel by the hand and WrensReads Review: If you know anything about me, you’ll know that Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine are two authors that have dreamed up books that made a handprint on my childhood. They are lively and they are uplifting and they shine girls in a light that the media and history turn a blind eye to. Well, now I am going to add Kristin Cashmore to that list. She writes exactly like those two ladies mentioned about, but for a slightly older age group. She grasps the fairytale feel by the hand and wrote this story about a girl who is stronger than her male-counterparts and believes in being a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man. That phrase couldn’t describe a character better. Katsa literally doesn’t want to get married and doesn’t want kids. She doesn’t want a politically-binding marriage where she is supposed to be on the sidelines and just support her husband and his ambitions. She wants to support her own ambitions. Katsa is a Graceling, meaning she has two-colored eyes and has a special ability of some sort. Her ability is death. She is an amazing fighter and she never loses. She is a gifted-killer. So what does her uncle king do with that information? He uses her to take out all of the people against him, or really anyone who won’t just do what he says. But she doesn’t like doing what she is doing and doesn’t see a way out of it until she meets a fellow Graceling named Po. He is a skilled fighter as well, but not as good as Katsa. He has an underlining secret that could get him killed. When Katsa finds out, she isn’t sure she can trust him. But she doesn’t get a chance to find out because there are troubles in the neighboring kingdoms. There is a king who is after a family member of Po’s and they have to find out why. And when they do... the two of them are the only ones who can put everything back the way it needed to be. Sociopaths are a real thing and I am happy someone wrote about one so well in a fantasy setting. Like what if someone so corrupt got such a powerful gift? The answer is in this book; which by the way, this king is so well written that I was scared out of my wits. And the audio for this book is a full-cast and it was amazing. I read along to it and just found myself lost in how well it was told. This whole story was so enchanting. I didn’t know I needed to read this book until I was finally in the middle of it. It’s so empowering and shows you how important trust is and self-preservation and self-love. I feel as if not only women and girls need to read this, but boys and men. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a story that grabs you by the eyes and pours into your soul. WrensReads | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram --- This book was so beautiful it left my heart aching. Omgsh. RTC. - - - My mother got me this book for Christmas last year... I figured I should read it before Christmas this year... has anyone read this series?

  22. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    get you a friend who drops everything to reread this with you because you’re sad and need the serotonin (update: I binged this in 2 days but now I have no serotonin anymore) // buddy read with my favorite person ever get you a friend who drops everything to reread this with you because you’re sad and need the serotonin (update: I binged this in 2 days but now I have no serotonin anymore) // buddy read with my favorite person ever

  23. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    Ambivalence: the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions (Dictionary.com). Thus ends my Graceling review. Kidding! But it does sum it up nicely. On the one hand, I found it a fast, engaging read that was hard to put down. As a favorite tale states, there is "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." Alright, maybe not Ambivalence: the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions (Dictionary.com). Thus ends my Graceling review. Kidding! But it does sum it up nicely. On the one hand, I found it a fast, engaging read that was hard to put down. As a favorite tale states, there is "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." Alright, maybe not the giants or monsters, at least in chimera form, but as human allegories they exist. It was particularly easy to get lost in reading with so many developments and the drive to know the ending. I sat down with it on a rainy day and finished it with a few hours. A few criticisms of the book center around the "Mary Sue" main character; a description I would have to dispute. Although Katsa seems invincible because of her Grace, she is emotionally stunted and out of touch with her own feelings, and the two together is what helps to make her character flawed and accessible. Katsa and Po are taken in interesting directions emotionally as they awaken to the greater application of their talents. I also give kudos to Cashore for not following the obvious and traditional ending, and for raising the marriage issue in a way that has potentially offended many readers. On the other hand, a central problem was a lack of audience definition. I don't read a great deal of young adult, but the writing style seemed particularly Spartan with frequently repeated phrases, simplistic characterizations and a generally stripped-down format that I associate with books targeting younger readers (or authors tired of their adult series--hello, Evanovich-- bad Carol!). I tend to love word-smithing, and there were a bit many eyes flashing and scowling expressions for my taste. The most lavishly described section occurs late in the book when Katsa climbs a wintery mountain pass, almost as if either Katsa or Cashore was finally settling into her world and looking around at the scenery. World-building was somewhat scant and characterizations somewhat simplistic (evil is really evil because it controls people, abuses animals and scares young girls), which again I can't fault if a younger audience is the target. The challenge comes with a romance that (view spoiler)[eventually develops into a sexual relationship (hide spoiler)] --probably removing it from the 10 year-old audience I had thought intended--or at least the less precocious ones. One of the most fascinating things about this book is the gender reversal. When discussing it in group, I realized that I likely would have disliked this book immensely had the talents of the two main characters been reversed. And there is one of the lynchpins of the book--had it been reversed, this book might have passed under the radar of most readers. As it was, I thought Katsa and Po were done well enough in the reversal to be believable. Conclusion? I wouldn't mind my niece or hypothetical daughter reading, but it's not present-worthy. Three reversed stars Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    My teenage daughter brought this home from the library and didn't get to it soon enough, so I swiped it from her and read it in one day. It was a fun read for the most part and certainly kept my attention; I found myself making excuses to my visiting relatives in the evening so I could hole up in my bedroom and finish this novel in peace (in my defense, it was 11:30 pm and they'd been talking my ears off for two hours). That said, I have some qualms about recommending this book. A lot has been sa My teenage daughter brought this home from the library and didn't get to it soon enough, so I swiped it from her and read it in one day. It was a fun read for the most part and certainly kept my attention; I found myself making excuses to my visiting relatives in the evening so I could hole up in my bedroom and finish this novel in peace (in my defense, it was 11:30 pm and they'd been talking my ears off for two hours). That said, I have some qualms about recommending this book. A lot has been said about Katsa, the heroine who swears never to marry or have children (but decides it's okay to take a lover). Whether or not that bothers you in a YA book is your decision, but it left me uncomfortable enough that I sat down with my daughter to have a chat about it, if she decides to read the book. Katsa's anti-marriage, anti-children attitude seemed unnecessarily stringent, and unlikely to be such a completely final decision in a very young woman, maybe 20 years old. As a result, it struck me as something that was inserted by the author for her own reasons, not as a trait that is truly integral to Katsa's character. A few other quibbles: The kingdom names showed a dearth of creativity: Wester, Nander, Estill, Sunder and Middluns are the names for the kingdoms in the west, north, east, south and middle of the peninsula. I guess Cashore didn't want us to have to over-exert our imaginations. Some of the traveling scenes went on too long--I found myself paging ahead to see how many more pages of this misery I had to slog through. The final confrontation with the bad guy (who is really sadistic and evil; sensitive readers beware) was done and over a little too quickly for me. And finally, the "Graces" or superpowers that some of the characters have were more creative than usual, but I thought the idea that anyone blessed (or cursed) with these powers always has eyes of different colors was a little bit too cutesie and improbable. Still, I wouldn't say no to a nice pair of silver and gold eyes staring into mine. I did like the idea of the unofficial "Council" (view spoiler)[that takes action to protect the weak and helpless in the kingdoms where the kings are corrupt or are otherwise failing to do the job (hide spoiler)] . I also liked (view spoiler)[ how Katsa was able to break away from her uncle, the king who had been using her as a strong arm/assassin for so many years (hide spoiler)] . Content advisory: Sex scene with mild explicitness. Heroine kills and injures several people. There is a sadistic character who does horrible things and wants to do them to his own young child. Not recommended for younger teens or "clean reads only" readers.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Review Update: 9/9/11 I am going to do something I don't do when it comes to reviewing/rating books. I have thought about this book a lot, and the fact that I really disagreed with the message about women, what empowers women, how they show that they are 'strong' and 'independent' women. I am going to downgrade my rating because I felt like the message in this book was too blatant and leading. It feels manipulative to me, and that's an issue I can't get past. Ultimately an author has a choice of Review Update: 9/9/11 I am going to do something I don't do when it comes to reviewing/rating books. I have thought about this book a lot, and the fact that I really disagreed with the message about women, what empowers women, how they show that they are 'strong' and 'independent' women. I am going to downgrade my rating because I felt like the message in this book was too blatant and leading. It feels manipulative to me, and that's an issue I can't get past. Ultimately an author has a choice of what kind of story they choose to write. I don't have to agree with it. I would hope that they would just tell the story instead of preaching. In this case, there was a lot of not so subliminal preaching going on in this story, that on further analysis, I can't get past. Sadly, I liked the idea and some of the concepts. I liked that Katsa was imperfect. I really liked Po, but even he is a bit of a 'too good to be' true creation that makes the message come across better from the author. I mean, you need a good, kind, loving man who is very tolerant to allow himself to be treated the way Katsa does him. Womanly strength is not 'one' thing. Like the rainbow, a spectrum of colors composite womanly strength. A housewife with children is just as strong as a woman who never marries, takes lovers, and goes around fighting battles. And there is a somewhere in-between, to be sure. To assume that there should be one extreme or the other, or that either choice is wrong for every women is a fallacy. I don't want to get preachy here, so I'll stop right here with that train of thought. I think that as far as other aspects, my review stands. But as far as the message in this book, it impels me to go back on my original review. I'm downgrading this to three stars. I don't feel I should change the original review without rereading, so I add the update as a caveat. So, if you read my review, the math doesn't add up with the final rating. If I do reread this, I will alter the whole review. **************************************************************************************************** Simply put, I found this to be a fantastic book. I loved the world that Ms. Cashore built. The concept of the Graced individuals was fascinating. I liked the way the Graced stood out with their eyes that are different colors from each other, and their phenomenal abilities that varied between each Graced person. And the characters that inhabit this story...well they weren't ones you could easily forget about or dismiss. Let's start with Katsa. I felt for her. She was basically her uncle, King Randa's goon. He sent her to hurt people for his own selfish ends. Her Grace became something she hated about herself. It took Po's love and acceptance to get her to see that her Grace was a blessing, and to see it for what it was. Not the power to kill, but the power to make a difference. Katsa had some serious control issues. I totally empathized with her on that. Being under someone's thumb and control is an ugly, ugly thing. I could see why she wanted to be free to make her own decisions. So, that was something I respected about her, but it led to a big issue I had with this story, which I will go into shortly. That withstanding, even though I really disliked a decision she was set on, I loved her. I thought she was a great character. Her strength as a person was formidable. Her determination to protect others and to survive any obstacle humbled me. I admired her so much, it brought tears to my eyes. Po was fantastic. Sometimes I am somewhat skeptical about these wonderful men that women authors write. Do they write men that they feel that women will instinctively love, or are there men out there as wonderful as Po is? I hope I meet one. Haven't just yet (no offense to the great guys I know). Po got my attention, and kept it, from the first meeting, in which he ends up encountering Katsa, and being one of the few who are somewhat of a challenge to her as a fighter. Po has a gypsy sort of vibe that reminded me of another favorite, Cam Rohan, from romance novels by Lisa Kleypas. He has an ease in his skin which makes him very attractive. He's gorgeous and sensual (not too sensual for a young adult book---but it's there alright). He's a great fighter. He's intelligent, resourceful, supportive, and insightful. He has a sense of adventure and an air of mystique. He was a really good guy. I couldn't love him more. Yet Po hides a secret that actually makes him a great counterpart to Katsa, although she has to take time to accept that he can see and perceive her in ways that no one else can. He has to come to terms with his own Grace, and that journey will not be without anguish to him. I overuse the term soulmates in my reviews, probably because I'm the sappy romantic who believes in this concept. But Po is without a doubt the one soulmate for Katsa. That made me more able to accept an issue I had from the romantic angle. The secondary characters were very distinct and absorbing. Young Bitterblue is a character that really stood out. I loved her by the end of this book, and I look forward to reading her book when it comes out. The poor girl. What she suffered. It was completely harrowing! Then there's Prince Raffin. He was adorable. I hope we see him again and see him find his bride. Oh, the awful villain. I won't say who it is, but he was an abomination! He got exactly what he deserved! No question. The world itself: Ms. Cashore stuck to simplicity and it paid off. She writes a world that looked a lot like our own, but the people in it gave this book the fantasy feel. If you like survival books and journey/quest books, you'll love this. It made me want to bone up on my non-existent survival skills. I couldn't do it justice the way Katsa and Po do. I liked the idea of the Seven Kingdoms, and how they related to each other. Far and above, Po's people stood out, with their penchant for jewelry, their dark hair and gray eyes--their culture was nicely distinctive. They had a Roma (gypsy) vibe that I liked. The action and adventure were par excellence. I love both, and I heartily recommend this book, if you are of the same mind. If you love a heroine who can more than handle her own, and the combination of a tough heroine and hero fighting at each other's side, you will love this book. The fight scenes are thrilling and awesome. The violence is not so graphic that it's disturbing, but there is death and blood in this book. But, the value of life is very much made clear by the author. I think this book sends a good message to younger readers in how she handles some tough issues such as using power in a way that is helpful and not selfish and hurtful to others. Okay, now I'll talk about the romance: It was scintillating, completely appealing. Katsa and Po had great chemistry. You knew they were for each other and no one else. You could see why they loved each other. This book does have some love scenes, but they aren't descriptive enough to be unsuitable for young adult books, but they had enough steam to make this book sizzle in a way that would appeal to a fan of adult romances, at least in my opinion. A good steam factor is about chemistry, and it was there in spades here. Also, there was that vibe of a love that was too strong to resist. Let me get into my one and only issue with this story. Katsa did not want to fall in love. She didn't want to give her heart away. She did not want to be owned, and not really to belong to anyone. She vowed not to marry or have children. One one level I could completely understand that, but it also frustrated me. I think Po more than showed he was the kind of man who would never try to own or control her. I think he gave her more than 100% of himself, but I felt she didn't give herself fully in return. I think agreeing to marry him would have showed her trust and love for him in return. I felt she did love him and show it, but I also felt she was holding a large part of her essential self back. And thus, the true romantic in me was unsettled and dissatisfied with the resolution of this book. I hope and pray that eventually Katsa will marry Po. I think he deserves that show of trust from her. I can't get away from my feelings about love. I think if you love someone enough, you want to marry them, and there is no substitute. That's my personal belief. And, it made the way this book ended a big issue for me. So, on the romantic front, this was not a 5 star book. It's more like a four. As a fantasy and a book overall, there is no question that this book is a five star book. But, if you are reading this as a romance, it doesn't quite reach perfection, at least if you are of a similar mind to me. You might not be. You might be fine with this great couple existing forever in a relationship that is uncommitted to the rest of the world, and between them in the sense that Katsa feels she will always have the freedom to walk away from Po. Ugh, it makes my heart ache to think about it. So, this is the best review I can write. It's so hard to describe my feelings about this book, and I did the best I could. I don't think I can add much more to it. I highly recommend Graceling. It was a pleasure and a joy, and I want to read more by Ms. Cashore.

  26. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    about six times a year, I facilitate a weekend training on being a peer support volunteer. our volunteers are often very, very different from our clients, so our training often focuses on how to bridge those differences and build a empathetic and supportive relationship. we go over many topics, include what we call "Cultural Awareness". this is a catch-all phrase and not simply about culture per se - although of course everyone hails from a particular culture, one that helps form who that person about six times a year, I facilitate a weekend training on being a peer support volunteer. our volunteers are often very, very different from our clients, so our training often focuses on how to bridge those differences and build a empathetic and supportive relationship. we go over many topics, include what we call "Cultural Awareness". this is a catch-all phrase and not simply about culture per se - although of course everyone hails from a particular culture, one that helps form who that person is, and that culture is a part of their personal context. but we like to move beyond that, using the concept of "Cultural Humility": approach another person's identity with the intention of learning and in the spirit of humility; a person should define their own identity because that person is the one who is most familiar with their own reality; an individual should not automatically be seen as emblematic of their culture or race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation or class or age or whatever. a person's perception of who they are may not parallel what other people automatically perceive about them, based on their appearance or casual, passing interactions. that difference in perception can be annoying and painful. I like to have trainees go through an exercise where they consider who they are and then consider how they have been incorrectly perceived. I use myself as an example before having them do the exercise, like so: what I loved most about this book is that it is all about this idea. this is a young adult novel, and even though this issue of perception versus reality is something that everyone at every age can wrestle with, it is of special importance to young adults because that's a particular time period of self-searching, figuring out your identity, and reacting to whatever box you may be in or whatever box others may be trying to put you in. like so: I really appreciated Cashore's message. it's so simple and yet so important. and that message is woven throughout the book, through most of its characters, from its protagonists to the two probably-gay characters to the foolish guy who loves Katsa to the fascinating and horrendous villain. Cashore hits that message again and again; it's a message worth hitting hard. everyone has to deal with being put in a box despite knowing that their reality is not simply that box. reality is so much more than boxes and other people's perceptions of who and why you are. like so: the story itself is fun and the book was pure pleasure to read. the writing was clean and efficient. the emotions on display were resonant. the love story was actually pretty cool and not annoying. I was impressed with how Cashore illustrated her message not just with Katsa's experiences, but with what eventually happens to Po (i.e. it's not all about what you see; there's more to see than what's right in front of you). I didn't mind the unimaginative place names because it gave the book a rather timeless quality. the three powers most on display were very interesting; I particularly liked how the villain's power parallels the power many politicians have over people who just automatically buy their bullshit messages, and who then deliver that fake message to others as if it were actually the truth. I really, really liked how Katsa's antipathy to marriage and having children, and Po's willingness to meet her halfway, were portrayed in a positive light. I am by no means anti-marriage (and neither is this story), but it was such a different sort of message for young adults that was being conveyed here. a girl (or a boy) doesn't actually have to settle down in a traditional way. a relationship does not have to be sanctified by a title to be real; you can connect deeply with someone, love someone, without being married to them. you can be your own person and that includes not being with another person for the rest of your life. you are who you are; being different and having a different kind of relationship and not subscribing to cultural norms that you aren't feeling is perfectly okay. great message... great book!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Candi Stephenson

    Hm. The hardest thing about this book is that it COULD HAVE BEEN SO GOOD. I started out loving everything about it and ready to recommend it to everyone. But then it started reading like a feminist/anti-marriage/anti-kids campaign platform (okay - that might be a little much, but you started to feel that the author had an agenda). It was just really disappointing, because I loved the characters so much. Oh well. Also - even though it's considered a YA novel, there is sex in it. Pretty disappoint Hm. The hardest thing about this book is that it COULD HAVE BEEN SO GOOD. I started out loving everything about it and ready to recommend it to everyone. But then it started reading like a feminist/anti-marriage/anti-kids campaign platform (okay - that might be a little much, but you started to feel that the author had an agenda). It was just really disappointing, because I loved the characters so much. Oh well. Also - even though it's considered a YA novel, there is sex in it. Pretty disappointing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maggie ☘

    *4.75/5 stars* Foreword: I've read a few reviews stating that Katsa is problematic because she's against feminine things like dresses, marriage etc. But I don't think she dislikes dresses or marriage for other people at all, I don't think she judges them for it, she simply does not want the same for herself. As is her prerogative. She simply doesn't feel overly traditionally feminine herself, which is also fine. I don't think it's as much of a stance against these things as it is that deep down sh *4.75/5 stars* Foreword: I've read a few reviews stating that Katsa is problematic because she's against feminine things like dresses, marriage etc. But I don't think she dislikes dresses or marriage for other people at all, I don't think she judges them for it, she simply does not want the same for herself. As is her prerogative. She simply doesn't feel overly traditionally feminine herself, which is also fine. I don't think it's as much of a stance against these things as it is that deep down she simply feels differently. There's a lot of people in the world and the important thing in YA is that every heroine (reprenets) *should* represent all the different voices. There shouldn't be any trend of 'strong female characters', instead we should embrace all the differences and different kinds of strength that exist in women. Katsa is simply one facet of all the different kinds of women out there. For example, I love Katsa. I love Katniss (THG) or Lila (Shades of Magic) or Cinder (Lunar Chronicles) or Kate (Kate Daniels) who are not per se traditionally feminine. I also love Rose (Vampire Academy), Kestrel (Winner's trilogy), Shahrzad (Wrath and the Dawn), Elisa (Fire and Thorns) Raisa (Seven Realms), Harper (Rebel Belle) who are, and kick ass in all kinds of different ways. I think that this is simply Katsa's POV, her own voice and it doesn't show us what the 'right feminism' should be, at all, it shows us Katsa's opinions and views on things, with her experiences, her past and the setting she is in. From the right ones to the not so right ones. She is a flawed characters, intentionally so, in my opinion. Graceling is simply one book, about one character with one 'type', for lack of better words, of personality. Obviously, she is not going to click with everyone, but if you do connect with her even a little bit (like me in some ways) than it is powerful. There are so many different female protagonists out there now, so many ways for them to be strong, so many ways for them to be and feel and indentify as in YA. (Although I do think we have a long way to go in that regard still.) I connect with and admire Katsa, I also connect with and admire Kestrel from the Winner's Trilogy, who is very very different. The most important thing is for us to not have only one type of 'currently trendy' female character, one type of strength when there's so so many, but all the ways woman are and can be. All the ways women are strong every day. This is simply one of them. Some of my thought on the book: I can't believe I loved this book even more the second time around. Graceling was actually my very first high fantasy. As well as the firt book I bought with a map of the world in it. This was the first time I read Graceling in the original, but I don't think that the reason why I didn't love it this completely the first time around was because of the translation at all. I think Graceling is one of those books I just love - and understand - more now later on. I understand Katsa's independent spirit and her overall character arc and development. ““I'll teach you how to defend yourself, how to maim a man. We can use Po as a model.' 'Wonderful,' Po said. 'It's quite boring really, the way you beat me to death with your hands and feet, Katsa. It'll be refreshing to have you come at me with a knife." Aside for Katsa, I also really loved Po (Greening Grandemalion!!). I loved their friendship sprinkled with romance later on. I think they are the perfect match. I loved their journey both together and separately. The side characters were also very likeable: Bitterblue, prince Raffin (also hello, platonic f/m friendship), Oll and Helda, even if some of them made just a short appearance, I liked them. “Skye kissed her forehead. "You saved my life." Katsa smiled. "You Lienid are very outward in your affection." "I'm going to name my firstborn child after you." Katsa laughed at that. "For the child's sake, wait for a girl. Or even better, wait until all your children are older and give my name to whichever is the most troublesome and obstinate." I loved loved loved the storytelling. It was very immersive to me. As well as the world building. This book was an adventure full of peril and friendship. I really loved Katsa's journey - both physical and spiritual - through the whole book and the way she grew. I'm very interested in giving a try to the sequels, as I haven't read those at all yet. ““What are you grinning at?" Katsa demanded for the third or fourth time. "Is the ceiling about to cave in on my head or something? You look like we're both on the verge of an enormous joke." "Katsa, only you would consider the collapse of the ceiling a good joke."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sofii♡ (A Book. A Thought.)

    I really enjoyed the history and mainly the amazing kingdom that the writer has created . I know that many will believe it is something unfair my punctuation and I respect that because this series has a lot of fans, but I have not felt comfortable with the idea of putting more because I liked but I haven't loved as I thought it would “I'm not going to wear a red dress," she said. "It would look stunning, My Lady," she called. She spoke to the bubbles gathered on the surface of the water. "I I really enjoyed the history and mainly the amazing kingdom that the writer has created . I know that many will believe it is something unfair my punctuation and I respect that because this series has a lot of fans, but I have not felt comfortable with the idea of putting more because I liked but I haven't loved as I thought it would “I'm not going to wear a red dress," she said. "It would look stunning, My Lady," she called. She spoke to the bubbles gathered on the surface of the water. "If there's anyone I wish to stun at dinner, I'll hit him in the face.” My main problem been that I have not been able to connect with the main character , at first I did I felt I understood his actions and their way of thinking and even their crazy decisions by the fact that his childhood had been hard and being a girl among a lot of male characters then it should be something rude, but then something changed in my outlook and her behavior began to seem annoyed to me and insolent, I found myself thinking "why she does this?" or "why did she say that?" and then I couldn't connect with her again despite that I really tried. I mean, I enjoyed it a lot, and I'm being honest, I loved the first half!, the beginning of the story and really has very nice catch phrases and the idea of different colored eyes to identify people who have "the grace" is my favorite thing, Po is a lovable character I love him a lot. And the plot and descripsion the world where the plot developed, I repeat again, has me amazed is fantastic, but anyway it was not enough. “When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?” Not that it detracts to the plot, it is that for me the main character is important and therefore my feelings for her. Another thing that left me unhappy is the romance in the story, I do not like at all, and I am a person of romances, that is, for me is escensial in the plot, but in this book I have found it unconvincing and somewhat forced, I fails to connect with it at all, so I found myself very boring in the love moments, waiting for the action, which had never happened with me before. Certainly I want to highlight the creativity of the writer and I say to you that you never have to discard a book by their review although was not as good as in my case because we are all different and this is a great example of that. Read this one has action and a good plot. If you do tell me what you think! :)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Trina (Between Chapters)

    Really enjoyed this! The plot took a while to kick in but I loved the characters and I have a new ship! The audiobook has a full cast and is so well performed! Rep: Blindness (harmful rep). The character does have magical abilities that give him heightened other senses that "make up for" his disability. Content: A father with gross intentions toward his daughter. I couldn't quite tell if this was incest or other physical violence. He is said to enjoy torturing other children and animals. Some of Really enjoyed this! The plot took a while to kick in but I loved the characters and I have a new ship! The audiobook has a full cast and is so well performed! Rep: Blindness (harmful rep). The character does have magical abilities that give him heightened other senses that "make up for" his disability. Content: A father with gross intentions toward his daughter. I couldn't quite tell if this was incest or other physical violence. He is said to enjoy torturing other children and animals. Some of the animal torture is described briefly.

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