I’ve had Graceling a long time and I’ve finally got around to reading it as part of my TBR-intervention scheme. I didn’t know what I was expecting from this book, but I found it thoroughly entertaining, and fell just a little bit in love!
Cashore unveils the plot gradually and builds up the world as the story moves along and I appreciated the feeling and grit of the fantasy world. Whilst we ploughed straight into the actual story and didn’t waste time building up the world to start with, it took me a while to assimilate to the actual world of the book. However, once I did, I found the story flowing and engaging at every moment.
Fantasy is a genre that I dip into now and again, but actually really love when I read it! I felt like Cashore created a fantastic fantasy world. We are set up with seven kingdoms and Katsa lies in one of these seven, serving her uncle Randa. In serving Randa she travels across all seven kingdoms and we really witness an medieval feel with castles, sword fighting, hand to hand combat, trading ships and lots of other aspects. I feel like these things all make up a true fantasy world. Nevertheless, I felt like we lacked a little bit in knowledge about all the seven kingdoms and the organisation of the world, so I hope this will become more apparent as the Graceling Realm series continues that the seven kingdoms evolve into something bigger.
Katsa is certainly a strong, kick-ass female protagonist and I appreciated that she could fathom things out herself and defend herself. When it was necessary she had to divert her protection to others such as Po, but this came in only moments of real dire need. Katsa never failed to shoulder the stress, pain and work that some female protagonists certainly do in being ‘weak and vulnerable’ females. However Katsa is graced with the art of “killing”; this is not all it seems and makes for some very interesting development in Katsa’s character. As a leading character she makes a very noticeable progression and whilst she left me disappointed by the end of the story with the way Cashore wrote her, I could applaud her for sticking to her decisions firmly. In some instances I feel like my respect for her would have decreased if she’d have chosen to move back on the front she’s argued from the very start of the novel! Katsa is a very easy character to like and she becomes very endearing by the end of the story, especially with her friendship with Po and Bitterblue. In some ways Katsa reminds me of Katniss from The Hunger Games with her protective instincts and sturdy foundations as a character.
Po was cheeky, smart and totally irresistible. I fell in love with him from the very first moment we met him and I couldn’t help but vent my anger in certain parts of the novel where they came across trouble. However his self-pitying act at the end and his lack of taking firm control with Katsa over his feelings really annoyed me! And I felt like I was always waiting for more from him. He may have been the perfect, smart and caring character, but he had flaws that frustrated me to no ends. Ultimately I understand his self-pitying act at the end of the novel, but it became a little tedious for the couple of chapters it spanned over. I also felt like it was never truly resolved!
Raffin was a character I also really liked. My complaint here would have to be we never saw enough of him. He brought many light-hearted moments to the early part with Katsa when she was incredibly serious. I hope to see more of Raffin in the near future, because as the future king to the Middluns, I find it hard-pressed that we will not see him again.
Of course this young-adult novel contains romance, however this is very much NOT at the forefront of the novel, but I do think it added to the story. It was not insta-love. Although I felt like hitting Katsa for her behaviour because she reflected Katniss’ stupidity about love throughout the novel and I don’t think is necessarily a bonus point for young-adult novels: the female protagonist being stupid not to realise how many people are in love with her, it almost reminds me of Bella from Twilight which pains me to say! However, the fact that the romance had a progressive movement and still was being left open by the end of the novel could certainly indicate a new direction to young-adult romance because I don’t feel like there was sufficient conclusion to this romance. I hope these two will be witnessed in future novels as background characters to see their development.
Overall, I felt Cashore has a well-written, engaging young-adult novel that has set up a great start to the series and should go far. I had a few discrepancies whilst reading, but I wouldn’t say this deterred me from my overall enjoyment of the book. I’ll be looking forward to the next one when I get my hands on it and I’d suggest to fantasy and young-adult fans alike to pick this book up because it’s not one to be overlooked!
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Let me know what you think!