Sunday, August 30, 2009

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

This book was highly recommended to me by the "Latiener Gang," who are now holding a contest for it's prequel, "Fire." You can find more info about it on their blog. I figured I'd keep an eye out for this book, since the prequel was getting so hyped up, but I had no idea I'd find it so soon after thinking about it. O_0

Anyway, this story is a great one. The basic setup is that it takes place in some medieval time when people still rode horses for transport and kings laid down the law. It's not exactly a fantasy story, like, there's no elves or dragons or anything like that. But what's special about this world is that there are some people who are blessed with special powers that give them a certain uniqe talent, different from everyone else's. These powers are called Graces, and the people who have them are Gracelings. (Hence the title of this book.)

All Gracelings are easily identified by their eyes, because they're always two different colors. Every Grace is completely unique for each individual, just like everyone's special talent is pretty much unique. There are Graces for baking, or having a green thumb in the garden, for master fighting skills, or superior strength. There's even special mind-reading Graces, although everyone reads different things, depending on the Grace. (Sadly, there's no Grace for flying, or having control over the elements. That's still imposible in this world. =P)

Anyway, most Gracelings are sent to live in their respective kingdom's palace (there are 7 kingdoms in this land) because, hey, royalty's got to have the best people working for them, right? So the main character of our story, a Graceling woman by the name of Katsa (everyone has one name in this old world too), appears to have the Grace of killing. At least, that's what people think it is. Graces are sometimes hard to quantify, if they're not blatantly obvious. But she seems to know how to "bring down" a guy, so her mean uncle, who is one of the kings, uses her for some of his dirty work. (He isn't one of the nicer kings, but he's not necessarily the villain here.) Of course, when you're looking at it from Katsa's point of view, she's not really all that monstrous and scary. She's just a regular person who is just used to being feared by the people.

I don't want to bore you with all the complicated, convoluted plot elements here, but when the story starts getting real momentum, it's mostly a love story between Katsa and a Graceling prince, Po, whose Grace is also not exactly what it seems, though it does allow him to be about the only person who can hold his ground in a fight with the fierce Katsa, so that's saying something.

This book reminded me strongly of certain other stories I've come to love. Example: the powerful Gracelings, as well as the romance, reminded me of the awesome vampires from the Twilight Saga. The name Katsa reminds me of the main girl in the "Hunger Games," Katniss. (Pretty darn similar, huh? But I don't hold it against either author. Both charcters are amazing!) Finally, the ending that resulted in "Graceling" seemed, to me, to have a Jane Eyre type of feel to it. (If you've read Jane Eyre like I have, maybe you'd know what I mean by that.) Ooh, plus there's the character known as Po. Now, please tell me you didn't immediately think of the fat, pudgy panda voiced by Jack Black who couldn't do any Kung-Fu? Well you don't have to worry, because this Po is nothing like that.

This book was an absolute pleasure to read, and I can't wait to read more by the author. ^_^

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