Title: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)
Author: Kristin Cashhore
Publication Date: October 8, 2008
Summary: Deadly Grace
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight–she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graces as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
She never expects to become Po’s friend.
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace–or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…
I know, this is an old one. But I finally (two years late) got my hands on Bitterblue and decided it was time to reread all the books. And I got a request to review this series so I figured why not kill two birds with one stone.
For those of you that have read Graceling, you all know what an awesome book it is. And for those of you that haven’t read it yet, you’re really missing out. This book is full of wonderful, well developed characters, original world, and an intriguing story line. The romance isn’t half bad either and the best part is that it doesn’t take away from the story. Fucking hallelujah.
Katsa is honestly one of my favorite heroines of all time. She is such a bad ass, as her grace makes her, but not only is she physically strong, she is mentally tough too. Once she finally stands up to Kind Randa and escapes from his grasp, she swears to never let another man own her. And she doesn’t. She is fearful of having a relationship with Po, in case she loses herself. She is afraid that inside she truly is the animal King Randa treats her like. She is afraid she will never be able to do enough good to make up for all the bad. I love seeing such a vulnerable side to someone who could literally beat the snot out of anything in her path. There was such a balance of internal conflict and personal strength and confidence, Katsa is a beautiful character.
More than anything, I love the message that Katsa sends. She is a strong young woman, who can easily protect herself, but still has emotions and can show love for the people she cares about. She despises her long hair, having to wear dresses and jewelry, which is a little overused for “strong” heroines, but she never flaunts this as a reason that she is better than other women. It’s simply how she feels. Katsa is with Po intimately, but knows she doesn’t want to belong to a man, she doesn’t want to be a wife or have children. And she doesn’t give that up for anyone, not even the man she loves.
Po, also known as Prince Greening Grandemalion (what the hell?) is on a quest to find his missing grandfather, someone else with a ridiculous name, and runs into Katsa. They become friends and train together since Po is a mysteriously good fighter, the only person Katsa has ever met that is somewhat a match to her awesome skills. The thing I love about Po is that he really softens Katsa a shows another side of her, a vulnerable, fun side. He is usually lighthearted and kind, protective over those he cares about and willing to fight fiercely for them.
The story itself was fairly predictable at times, but not in a way that was necessarily annoying, since I still liked reading all the different characters. I have to say though, the ending twist still gets me. I am sad though that we didn’t get to read more about King Leck, who we got a ridiculously limited amount of information about. I liked all the different lands, but there was really much back story on anything. No beliefs or religions, not much on the different cultures, and no history of any sort. While I love the idea of people being graced, that’s about all there is to make this world unique. There is a lack of purpose or reason behind the bad guys motives other than they are just jerks with power. Also, not to sound like a whiner, but what the hell is up with all the goddamn weird names? It honestly got on my nerves, especially since Katsa always made me think of katsup and Po made me think of Kung Foo Panda. So in my mind, it was more like a badass bottle of ketchup and a fat panda go on an adventure together and fall in lurve… Yeah, it definitely bothered me.
Still though, I really like this book. There are definitely better fantasy books out there, but I love Katsa and Po and they really care this book for me. I’ve already started Fire which I know happens in a different land, but I’m hoping we might get to see the couple again in Bitterblue.