Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Graceling - Kristin Cashore (2008)

This was a birthday present from my co-blogger, and I used it as a reward to motivate myself to slug through April Fool's Day - which surprised me by being amazing. This is a very good book for a debut author. Graceling won the 2009 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature. I can draw a lot of parallels to The Hunger Games especially since Graceling's protagonist is Katsa and the Hunger Games produced Katniss. It reads well and easily with well developed characters and just the right amount foreshadowing.

I liked it, it lends a great change from the paranormal genre. I am excited to read its companion/prequel Fire, which was released last year. A third book - Bitterblue was meant to be released this year, but its still progressing, but I found out that it is set eight years after Graceling which shall be interesting. My one personal criticism (which is kinda silly) Why does girl always have to met boy and live happily ever after?! I was excited for a book with a strong woman with no love interest to split her power. But no, my hopes were dashed about halfway through. Nevertheless, my recommendation of the book stands despite my feminist assertions.

Katsa is Graced with killing. She is called a Graceling and all Gracelings have eyes with a different colour in each. Her uncle, the King, has been using her to manipulate and torture her subjects since she was a child and accidentally killed her funny uncle. Then one day on a mission, she saves a kidnapped old man who she believes is guiltless. The man she saved is actually the father of the Lienid King. His grandson, the Lienid Prince Po arrives to stay with his grandfather. But Po has a  gold and a silver eye and is Graced with combat skills, and is the only real competition Katsa has ever faced. They are confused as to why anyone would want to kidnap grandfather. They trek across the lands to find King Leck who they conclude must have taken him. Katsa finds out that Po's true Grace is mind-reading and is very angry with him. He keeps it a secret from everyone, even his family to protect himself. They reconcile and Po digresses that he thinks that Katsa's real Grace is not killing but survival. Po also believes that one-eyed Leck has a secret Grace of mind-control which is why his reputation is so esteemed. The pair begin to fall in love. They reach Leck's  kingdom only to see him kill his wife and his daughter flee from him. Leck's Grace has an instant effect on Katsa, but not Po. Po manages to pull Katsa away and they traipse through the mountains with Leck's young daughter Bitterblue. Po goes back to kill Leck and is shot and badly injured. He cannot carry on so he makes Katsa leave him behind. She agrees, but only because his Grace is extending to awareness of all things, not only people. Bitterblue and Katsa make it through the icy mountains thanks to Katsa's survival Grace. They go to Po's castle only to find Leck already there, having brainwashed the Lienid family. Katsa is instantly under his spell, but has a moment of clarity when Leck mentions revealing Po's true Grace, and impales him through his eye, killing him. She goes back for Po, and finds that he was blinded by the shot and relies completely on his Grace to see. Katsa stays with Po out of love, she previously refused to believe in. The two then they part ways temporarily - Po to lead his kingdom and Katsa to teach young girls like the newly coronated Bitterblue how to fight.

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