Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore


July 18, 2012 by Heidi

Graceling by Kristin Cashore book coverTitle: Graceling [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Kristin Cashore [Website|Twitter]
Standing: First in a trilogy, may be read as a standalone.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: October 1st, 2008 by Harcourt
Format: Hardcover; 471 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

In a world where people born with an extreme skill – called a Grace – are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graces 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…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

So I finally jumped on the Graceling bandwagon, and honestly people, if one of you had just beat me over the head with this book 4 years ago and told me that the series was full of complete stories that didn’t depend on one-another, I would have read it a long time ago.  Clearly this is all your fault.  But I’m willing to forgive and forget because I loved Graceling.  This book swept me away as only fantastic fantasy can do, compelling me to neglect every other aspect of my life until I’d read the whole thing.  I believe I still fed the cat and maybe showered once, but who’s to say?  I’m pretty sure the furry fella is still kicking around here somewhere.

Because this is one of those books that I’m about the last person to read (and if you haven’t yet, consider this me hitting you over the head with it), instead of trying to write a legit review I’m just going to clue you in to why I enjoyed it so much.

Things I like in books:

  • 3rd person over-the-shoulder perspective*
  • Single perspective*
  • Unreliable narrators
  • Strong female lead*
  • Girls who kick butt*
  • Girls who dress as boys*
  • Fantastic world building*
  • A map*
  • Real world settings I know well/would love to visit
  • When things only piece together near the end
  • When characters figure things out as fast as I do*
  • Non-human characters
  • Slow burn romance*
  • Political machinations*
  • Great action scenes*
  • Survival*
  • Characters who are confident but have humility*
  • Stories with romance that aren’t about romance*
  • Stories with no romance
  • Characters who grow*
  • Underground movements*
  • People who let other people be who they are*
  • Snark/a dark sense of humor
  • Adventures/journeys*
  • Stand alone novels*

*Graceling has it.

Map of the Seven Kingdoms from Graceling

I could complain about the naming scheme of the countries, which is, quite frankly, terrible (see above), but as that’s the only complaint I can come up with for Graceling, it seems silly.  No one book can have all  of these things, but Graceling came pretty damn close.  Now excuse me while I check on the cat…

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  I can’t wait! I will have seen Kristin Cashore at Books of Wonder when this posts, and most likely have at least bought Fire, and depending on my ability to resist things, possibly Bitterblue as well.

Recommended for: Those who enjoyed Grave Mercy and The Scorpio Races.  Katsa and Po gave me the same vibe as Puck and Sean with strong women, boys who don’t push them and are willing to work with them as equals, slow burn, etc. and the story had similar themes as Grave Mercy without getting as bogged down in political machinations.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:

Noise Cancelling Headphones

Katsa, these noise cancelling headphones are for you!

Get a second opinion:

See Michelle Read
Chachic’s Book Nook
Good Books and Good Wine
Steph Su Reads
Paranormal Indulgence
Fantasy Cafe


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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.