Summary (from Goodreads): 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...
My Rating: 4.5 stars
My Review: GRACELING! GRACELING! GRACELING!
Gosh can you believe it? Even the author's name is cool. Kristin. Cashore. Sounds like something from a fantasy novel. And the title? Awesome.
Graceling is a wild ride. It's a truly amazing book. Let me explain why.
In this fantasy world that Ms. Kashore has created, there are people called Gracelings. Like the summary above reads, these people are rare and held in high regard because they've got a skill in one area. So you could have a person who plays piano extremely well and is crap at other things. Anyway, they are experts at their area. (Get this: Gracelings have different colored eyes. That is cool.)
Katsa is the niece of the king but she is also Graced with killing. Her Grace was discovered at a pretty early age when she shoved her relative's nose into his brain, killing him. Although that is kind of gross, it's also incredibly badass. Unfortunately, because of her Grace, her uncle sees that as an advantage to terrorize his enemies.
Like I've said before, world building is always a big deal for me. Ms. Cashore shapes a world with descriptive words and her writing flows very nicely and smoothly. Katsa is pretty chill and calm, the sort of thing you would find in a king's assassin and I love her for that. She's completely fearless and is willing to face anything...except for when it comes to Po.
If there is one word that sums up Katsa's and Po's relationship it is sweet. It was cute and charming because Katsa, the girl who can kill someone without even trying--is completely flustered by Po. He is funny and debonair and he is Graced with fighting skills. So he's a pretty darn good fighter.
Instantly, you feel the chemistry between Katsa and Po and it gives me the incredible urge to giggle. Ugh, can you believe it. I never giggle.
This book is just nonstop action. Like I've said before and will say again. Awesome.
One thing that poked at me, one thing I'm sure others have also pointed out, is that Katsa rejects anything "girly". While it is fine to be a tomboy and hate wearing dresses, it is almost like Katsa scorns other girls that like "girly" things. She's like a radical feminist. In that regard, I find the book to be a little lacking because someone can wear dresses, like pink things and still be a feminist. In the end, feminism is about advocating to be a woman with equal rights as a man--not about what a woman wears.
But besides that little flaw, the book was very good. The pacing, the fights, the little scenes between Po and Katsa were all perfect. Good job, Ms. Cashore.
Kristin Cashore grew up in the northeast Pennsylvania countryside as the second of four daughters. She received a bachelor's degree from Williams College and a master's from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College, and she has worked as a dog runner, a packer in a candy factory, an editorial assistant, a legal assistant, and a freelance writer. She has lived in many places (including Sydney, New York City, Boston, London, Austin, and Jacksonville, Florida), and she currently lives in the Boston area. Graceling, her first book, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Fire is her second book.