Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Why I chose this book:

I was in dire need of some action in my life when I read this book for the first time. I wanted a no frills heroine who could kick butt and take names. Well, I may have gotten more than I bargained for with this one.

Publisher: Harcourt
Publish Date: October 1, 2008
Format: Paperback 
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy 
Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound


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.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...

3 things you need to know about this book:

   1. Characters and their issues:
   A) Katsa is the main female protagonist. As much as I liked her, she is rather hard to identify with. She is an extremely cold and calculating person. She’s very isolated, though she makes herself that way through her actions. She’s so isolated that even the reader feels a wall between them and the character. I will say that Cashore does a great job at writing her reasoning behind decisions, because sometimes she lacks in emotion and it’s hard to engage with her character. However, adding something more human to her character would have made her more endearing.

   B) Po: Though he is a fun-loving and excitable character, he wasn’t as developed as much as he could have been. Though he has more emotional than Katsa, I still feel like he needs something more to his character to truly make him three dimensional.

   C) Leck: He is the most dynamic character in the entire book. I don’t want to say much more about him because it gives away part of the plot. Though he is dynamic in comparison to Katsa and Po, he isn’t completely three dimensional; however, Fire and Bitterblue fleshes out his character quite thoroughly —to the point that he is probably the most in-depth, round, dynamic character she ever produces.

   2. Subliminal messages about love and marriage:
   Love and marriage, though not a large theme in the book, is brought up when Katsa and Po begin to realize their feelings for each other. Katsa sees marriage as something that weighs her down and restricts her, while Po wants it very much. I believe there is a subliminal message in this book that speaks very negatively about marriage. All of Katsa’s feelings are quite anti-marriage. Yes, Katsa is an independent character and marriage definitely isn’t for everyone, but I don’t understand how not getting married equates to independence. She does not explain that well, or Katsa’s fear and reasoning for not wanting to pursue marriage with Po. I, personally, think love makes you stronger, but Katsa sees love as a terrible weakness and an even more dangerous vulnerability. This predicament is not resolved by the end of the novel and leaves the reader in lurch.

   3. Finale:
   The ending is quite anticlimactic. For so long Cashore builds up the characters and plot, so much so that the reader becomes quite invested in their lives despite Katsa’s hard to identify with personality. However, the climax happens in 3-4 pages. It wasn’t lengthy at all. I was hoping for more —like a solid 20 page chapter, but when I blew through the peak of the action in a few pages, I had to go back and make sure I wasn’t missing something. Not only was it a quick four pages, but the resolution was so drawn out because of traveling and returning back to previously visited places. It was a good ending, but it left me bereft and wishing that she had done something different —something more.

   Final Notes:
   Overall, this book is definitely worth a read and possibly even a reread. I’ve read it twice now. She paints an interesting fantasy world that you can get caught up in and a plot that is unforgettable. This is definitely a great read for anyone who loves Tamora Pierce. 

   I gave it 3.5 stars on my Goodreads.


  1. I had mixed feelings about this one, too. I think I gave it 3 stars (if I recall correctly). I've been meaning to read the sequels (I've heard Fire is good), but I've got so many other books to read...

    1. Honestly, I think Fire is ten times better. It still has a lot of issues, but it's my favorite out of the bunch. Bitterblue is absolutely terrible, in my opinion, but I digress.


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