Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

From Amazon: “Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable yet strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace . . . and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.”

Thank you Cannonballers for clue-ing me in to this one! I really enjoyed Graceling and now have Fire and Bitterblue on hold at the library so I can dive into more of Cashore’s world. I loved the alternative takes on love and marriage presented here, as well as the fabulously nuanced and normal (well, inasmuch as supernaturally gifted royalty can be “normal”) female protagonist. This is the the type of “strong female character” I really like; there is a lot of discussion around the net if taking a girl, and giving her all “traditionally masculine” qualities and taking away anything “traditionally feminine” really makes a “strong female character,” or just the same kind of masculine character we are always supposed to root for, but in a dress. (Sorry for all the scare quotes in that last sentence. Geez.) Anyway, Cashore doesn’t do that here. Katsa is a fighter, and fiercely independent, strong-willed, and certainly no delicate flower, but she also loves, has maternal and protective qualities, and has deep, powerful emotions that she doesn’t care to suppress. She’s well-rounded, a complete human. It’s awesome.

And, on top of all that, the story is well-paced, gripping, well-written, and satisfying. Everyone does seem to live happily ever after, but not in the saccharine, cliched way we’ve come to expect. When YA is done well, it is so, so good.

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