Book Reviews Young Adult Books

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

For Sherry: 8 out of 10. First half was terrific – a total 10 – but the second part didn’t quite deliver for me.

I mentioned Graceling a few weeks ago and after having raved about it there, I definitely feel the need for a follow-up.

So, quick overview of the story. In Katsa’s kingdom, some people are born with graces (special abilities ranging from very useful to flat out useless (being able to speak backwards, for instance)). Katsa has a killing grace and her uncle, the king, has recruited her to go out and kill or torture – publicly – anyone who defies him. She hates this, of course, and has startd an underground rebellion which is spreading throughout the seven kingdoms.

On one mission, she meets Po, a prince from another kingdom, whose grandfather has been kidnapped for unknown reasons and they become, slowly, friends. He has a fighting grace and Katsa is thrilled to have someone to fight with, especially someone who is at least somewhat of a challenge (she still has to hold back, since she really could kill him pretty easily).

He eventually convinces her to stand up to her uncle and she does and then the two of them take off to find out who kidnapped his grandfather and what possible reason they’d have for doing so.

It’s a great story – high action, great romance, likable characters – but a few specific things kept me from wholeheartedly loving it.

First off, Katsa has sworn never to get married, but for reasons that are not very clearly defined and become even less believable as the story wears on it and she and Po develop a very strong (and sexual) relationship. I found it unbelievably distracting from the overall story and found myself wanting to Google Kristin Cashore and find out what her personal life and beliefs were like, since this part of the story seemed so forced into the overall flow.

Also, there’s this one part where they go over a mountain pass and it sort of takes forever. I’m sorry, but I cannot read pages and pages of discussion about hiking through a blizzard (Gary Paulsen, this is why I can’t really embrace your books, much as everyone else seems to like them).

Also, there is this major conflict that the book is building toward and then it resolves in a matter of three pages. On the one hand, I can kind of liked this because it does get tedious to watch a character pace their room for three chapters trying to decide how to deal with an issue, but on the other hand, it is jarring to have it tidied up so quickly and unexpectedly.

And finally the ending was just. . . well, it just sort of ended, with the characters scattering to the four winds. Hate. And, yes, there is a sequel coming out later this year (which I’m sure I’ll read) but it’s mostly about a different character.

I really am surprised when I see many book blogs proclaiming this the very best YA book of 2008. I mean, I certainly liked it, but it’s not one I’d race out to recommend to everyone I know and it definitely isn’t the best book I read from 2008.

It’s no Hunger Games, is what I’m saying.

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  • Reply Sherry February 27, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Wow! A link and a score! I read the whole thing. 🙂

  • Reply Bart February 27, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I’m surprised by the end of this post (I thought you liked it more than that). I guess I need to read your book posts from now on to find out your true feelings!

    [You told me more about this book during the first half, so that’s probably why I thought you absolutely loved the whole thing.]

  • Reply Packrat February 27, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Hum, it is always such a let down when the ending is too pat or as you put is “tidied up so quickly and unexpectedly”. It’s almost as if someone said, “You are out of pages so hurry and finish the story” without much thought to the plot in the previous several hundred pages. I complain, but I doubt I could do better 😀

    Great review.

  • Reply Amber February 27, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I have been awaiting your thoughts on this book! I just finished it last week – and I felt like I tore through it.

    I did not like how it just ended either – and was wondering if there was going to be a sequel. thanks for doing my research work! 🙂

    hmm – I also finished Jellico Road (cried) – Stealing Heaven (okay) – Fablehaven Series (excellent – can’t wait till the next one comes out).

  • Reply Katie February 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Katsa’s whole “I’m never getting married even though I love you so much and oh, hey! Let’s get it on, but I’m still not marrying you” thing was more than annoying to me, as well. It did seem very forced and it was my one beef with an otherwise really fun adventure/romance novel. I too wonder what Cashore’s own personal beliefs are about the institution of marriage. But, oh well. Not every book is going to get it right 🙂

  • Reply Justin February 28, 2009 at 12:34 am

    I must say, with Sherry, that I quite like the rating system.

  • Reply biblauragraphy February 28, 2009 at 5:27 am

    I don’t know – I think the vast majority of books with any romance in them already glorify marriage as the be-all and end-all of every relationship, and I appreciated seeing a different perspective from a character. I felt like it was believable for Katsa, who had been “owned” by the king for her whole life, to have serious reservations about tying herself to someone else. If you didn’t find that believable, I guess I can see where you thought it was forced onto the story. Sorry it didn’t quite work for you – it’s one of my recent favorites.

  • Reply Lisa February 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I was expecting you to come out loving this one! I love your reviews because you don’t hedge about what bothered you.

    I’ll keep this one on the library list, not the buy list.

  • Reply Becca February 28, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    The BYU library continues to not have this book available. Annoying.

  • Reply Alison Stewart March 1, 2009 at 2:33 am

    I really liked the book….but, now that you mention it….the second half did not move as fast. I too will be reading the next one (can’t help it).

  • Reply Madeleine S March 2, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I have to agree with everything you said.

    The I’m not getting marriage bit was a little bit much. If they just hadn’t mentioned marriage so often, and played it down, it would have been fine. But making a big deal out of it seemed to me to be rather forced.

    And the ending felt rushed, hands down.

  • Reply Stacy March 4, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I really liked the first half as well, and was disappointed by the second.

    I too wondered how much the author’s personal life may have influenced Katsa’s perspective. The whole marriage thing seemed out of place and didn’t make much sense.

  • Reply Melissa July 14, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Great review, you made a lot of great points! I actually just received an offer for an ARC of Fire, so I'm really excited to read that soon!!

    And I added a link to your review on mine, thanks for sharing it!!

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