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


If you liked that you might like this:


  1. Angiegirl says:

    Oh my this book this BOOK. It is such a very good book indeed. And good call on the SCORPIO RACES link. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Cannot wait to hear what you think of FIRE.

  2. Gosh, Katsa totally ROCKS, does she not? I love every single one of those things you mentioned above (and btw, I also like how you reviewed this too!) AND you know what else I thought was very cool? I like how sex positive this one was. I like how Katsa thought about things, weighed what was right for her, and went for it with no regrets. Very good message I think!

    I did like Fire, but not as much as Graceling. And I haven’t yet read Bitterblue but it is definitely on the agenda.

    Oh, and another shout out for the inclusion of maps! LOVE them in books!

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Heather! I sometimes feel silly reviewing books that so many people have already talked about, so it’s fun to do something different. =)

      And YES to everything you said. I loved Katsa’s outlook and that she did what was right for HER and that Po respects who she is, loves her for it, and doesn’t EVER ONCE push her to change her mind. I think that was the best thing about their relationship.

      Last night at the event KC was talking about the negative backlash she’s received because of this relationship. Apparently she’s been labeled as “anti marriage and she hates children” because she wrote ONE CHARACTER who had a different point of view. I made certain to let her know that I loved that different point of view and am so grateful that it’s out there.

  3. Holly says:

    YOU got to attend the Books of Wonder event?! I was wishing I could be there, not only for Kristin Cashore, but for Gayle Forman AND Melina Marchetta! That must have been a evening chock full of awesomeness. You plan to do a recap of the night, I presume? *crossing fingers*

    This reviews makes me so happy, one, because you loved it; two, because of its unconventional format; and three, that it’s a list (love me some lists!). I excited to hear what you think of the next two books (particularly Bitterblue).

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Holly! I DID get to attend the event! It was fantastic! Gayle Forman lives in Brooklyn, so I’ve had the fortune to see her before, but seeing these three together was so much fun because it was such a different format than any event I’ve attended before. I’ll be posting a recap for it tomorrow!

  4. Kristen says:

    So glad you enjoyed this one! I can’t wait to see what you think of Fire and Bitterblue. :)

    I also loved Katsa’s different point of view and thought it was refreshing to see a female main character who didn’t want children.

    • Heidi says:

      Wasn’t it?! About time there is that kind of female character–I love that the world is so full of different people, and books should be too! I’m sure I’ll be reading Fire soon, I’m so excited.

  5. I read and reviewed Graceling in June…and then proceeded to read Fire and Bitterblue right after. I couldn’t get enough. I think Fire was my favorite of the series. I can’t wait to see what you have to say about that one.

    • Heidi says:

      I’ve been hearing Fire love from quite a few people! I’m hoping I’m not getting too excited for it in my mind, because I’m fully expecting it to be as good or better than Graceling at this point.

  6. I can’t believe it took you this long to read Graceling. I loved it as well. I listened to Fire, though, and wasn’t the biggest fan so I’m really looking forward to hearing what you think of that one. i often wonder if I would’ve liked it more in book form. When I was looking at your list, I was so confused because I was like, “Graceling doesn’t have that thing!” Tricky, putting the explanation of the stars at the bottom to confuse idiots like me:)

    • Heidi says:

      Hehehe, sorry for the confusion!

      Yeah, I thought of getting the audio for these, but decided not to when I saw they were Full Cast and I tend not to enjoy those very much. I’m really excited/nervous about Fire because so many people have talked it up to me. We shall see!

  7. […] by Kristin Cashore [Amazon|Goodreads] Last week I simply devoured Graceling and loved it, so of course at the author event I chose to pick up Fire.  I’m actually […]

  8. Brittany says:

    I loved this as well! I’m actually in the middle of Grave Mercy and find myself comparing Ismae to Katsa – Glad to see you think so too!

  9. melaniesmusingsnet says:

    Girls who dress as boys? Interesting.

    I’ve read Fire but not Graceling, so I’m happy to hear this ones great! I thought Fire was amazing.

  10. […] I could recommend books with similar themes that are much stronger.  Go read Grave Mercy, Graceling, The Thief, or The False Prince instead.  Or if you do want to try Throne of Glass, I […]

  11. April Books & Wine says:

    This is legitimately the latest comment ever, but okay, I love Graceling and love your love of Graceling and am about to raid your suggestion and go and read The Scorpio Races.

    I’m pumped that you’ll be back for more and am on the edge of my seat waiting for a review of Fire. :-)


    • Heidi says:

      Hahaha, that’s okay, I’ve been SO BEHIND on everyone’s blogs this summer, it’s not even funny. But YES, I can’t believe you haven’t read Scorpio Races yet, but you SHOULD because you will totally love it, April!!

  12. […] for: Readers who enjoy dystopias or fantasies with hard handed rulers such as Throne of Glass or Graceling, the political structures here are similar.  Any Marillier fan, readers who like old school […]

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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.