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Graceling by Kristin Cashore - Review by Jenna, Teen Blogger

Graceling is a young adult fantasy novel by Kristin Cashore about a Graceling named Katsa. A Graceling is a rare and gifted person from the Seven Kingdoms that is born with an extreme skill, whether that is reading at a superhuman speed, seeing storms before they come, or simply cooking the most amazing dishes. Katsa is "Graced" with the ability to kill anyone, anywhere, in any way imaginable. She has been forced to work all her life as the thug of her uncle, who is the king of the Middluns, but she is also part of a secret council that helps to protect and serve the Seven Kingdoms. After a fateful night where she meets Po, a prince Graced with combat skills, she leaves the king’s services to join Po on a quest to figure out what is going on in the Seven Kingdoms.

Discover Catalogue - Graceling

Firstly, Cashore’s world-building is incredible. Not only does she create an alternate world where Gracelings exist; she transports readers into the midst of their society, where Gracelings are cast out for their extraordinary abilities and given away by their parents by the king’s order if they have any useful skills. Furthermore, their society seems to be more advanced than the medieval times of our world, but they travel by horse and use medieval weapons. Best of all, there is a detailed map outlining the Seven Kingdoms in the front of the book!

Another aspect of writing Cashore does well is character development. Katsa, for one, is a strong, female protagonist that readers can easily empathize with. Yet as strong as she is, Katsa struggles greatly with her identity and fears that she may truly be the “blue-eyed, green-eyed monster” her uncle calls her. Cashore writes Katsa as a divided character, in that she is both powerful and vulnerable, which is why the character is so dynamic and realistic.

One quote that really stood out to me was when Cashore wrote:

“How absurd it was that in all seven kingdoms, the weakest and most vulnerable of people—girls, women—went unarmed and were taught nothing of fighting, while the strong were trained to the highest reaches of their skill.”

In this quote, Cashore shows not only how messed up and unfair it is that the weak are constantly pushed down while the powerful are made more powerful still, but also Katsa’s feelings about her place in society. She undoubtedly has the best fighting skills, yet in this quote it’s obvious she feels like she is wrong. Because she is a woman she is expected to be weak and to be a good wife or mother, but she is neither. Katsa feels like an outsider, someone who differs from society’s expectations. She is looking for her place in the world, which is something I think everyone, especially teens, can connect to.

I absolutely devoured this book. It was fast-paced, thought-provoking, climatic, and a generally quick read. It’s the kind of book that you stay up all night to finish because it’s just that engaging, and I highly recommend it. Additionally, if you read this book and enjoy it, Cashore has written two companion novels to Graceling, titled Fire and Bitterblue, which I can say are just as fantastic. If this sounds like the book for you, it, as well as its companions, can be found at Halifax Public Libraries. More information about the books and author can be found at www.gracelingrealm.com

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