She knew her nature…It would be a blue-eyed green-eyed monster, wolflike and snarling. A vicious beast…a killer…But then it was a strange monster, for beneath its exterior it was frightened and sickened by its own violence…And sometimes it had no heart for violence and rebelled against it utterly…A monster that refused, sometimes, to behave like a monster. When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?
Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms #1) by Kristin Cashore. I’ve always admired this book’s cover over the last couple of years, but it wasn’t until recently, when I finally read the summary, that I became entranced by the world Cashore has created. I only wish it had happened sooner.
Whereas it should be cherished, a Grace is something to be feared and kept clear of. Katsa is a rarity, being not only Graced but with that of killing. Since the time she was eight, she’s been groomed as the king’s personal enforcer and forced to do his dirty work. Secretly, she takes matters into her own hands, putting together a network of followers to aid her in her quest to undo the wrongs between the kings of the Seven Kingdoms. It is on one of these missions that she first comes across Prince Po, Graced with fighting, and later becomes his friend. Along their journey, Katsa discovers something new about her Grace and they reveal a terrible secret which could very well destroy all seven of the kingdoms with a single word alone. A secret which only Katsa and Po know along with the knowledge of defeating it. This book hooked me from the beginning and kept me enthralled along the way with all the action, adventure and romance set in a wonderfully created medieval world. It’s comparable to that of The Cry of the Icemark in that the main characters are up against unbeatable odds with only their own gifts and skills to aid them along besides each other.
Half of the reason I loved this book so much was because of the lovable and memorable characters that Cashore created. Katsa is a strong, independent heroine, the likes of which I’d like to see more of in fiction. While she may not be your typical damsel in distress, she can hold her own in a fight and kick butt. Prince Po is not only handsome and charming, of course, but Katsa’s closest match in fighting skill also. It wasn’t until she met Po that issues were raised and Katsa began to question who she was and her place in the world. As her friend, he aids her in her quest for self-discovery. Together, Katsa and Po make an unbeatable force and quite a dynamic duo. Then there’s Katsa’s cousin, Raffin, the prince who’s more interested in his science experiments. Growing up, he was her only friend and is one of the few people who truly love her for who she is. Raffin is Katsa’s voice and reason when she needs it the most and he’s just the type of nerdy, funny and lovable person that everyone needs in their lives. The other reason I loved Graceling so much was because of the lovely world in which Cashore’s characters live in. It’s your typical medieval setting but with superheroes. Instead of being worshipped, however, they’re feared and exploited outcasts of society. It’s a beautifully conceived world which is creative and a fresh twist in teen fiction nowadays.
It was hard to find anything wrong that I didn’t like about Graceling, but if I had to pick anything it would be the lack of the villain’s characterization and development. Besides the two brief appearances, everything we learn about him is from the other characters. It would have been interesting to get a better glimpse behind the evil, but I’m afraid this would’ve possibly spoiled the book’s plot. For all I know, Cashore could have tried and been unable to find a way to make it work. Overall, the book is written beautifully with creative and descriptive words that got my imagination going. This seems to be the case throughout except for a few cases in which key points were not as thoroughly explained, but it wasn’t to the point where it made it hard to understand or difficult to read.
In the end, Graceling left me wanting more of Cashore’s amazing characters and her fascinating world in which she created to place them. Luckily, more of the Seven Kingdoms is revealed from the perspective of a whole new cast of characters in Graceling‘s sequel, Fire.