Book Review: Graceling
By: Kristin Cashore
Narrated By: David Baker, Chelsea Mixon, Zachary Exton, & More
Published By: Full Cast Audio
Publication Date: June 2009
Audio Length: 12 hours, 31 minutes
Audience: YA - Fantasy
On the Story & Writing:
Several bookish friends have been recommending this title to me since the print version came out in 2008. However, I stubbornly refused to give it a chance since I typically don't enjoy fantasy books. However, I began to consider the variety of people who had read and liked this one. Paula and Tevya both rated it highly; Paula also mentions it from time to time as one of her all time favorites. I finally decided that neither of these ladies would ever steer me wrong so I opted to give Graceling a try. While I'm still not a huge fan of fantasy novels, I will admit that Kristin Cashore did make me a fan of her series. I will certainly read the other books.
Graceling has an interesting premise that I intrigued me from the first chapter. In this world, there are those who are graced. These people have special skills that allow their abilities to be stronger than normal people. Sometimes the grace can be something as trivial as the ability to hold your breath for lengthy periods of time. While others, like Katsa, have more deadly gifts. Katsa has the ability to kill with ease. Her grace makes her a prized possession in the kingdom of her uncle, King Randa. He uses her to deal out painful punishment to any and all who oppose his will. However, Katsa wants to do more with her skills than just be a hired thug. The appearance of Prince Po helps her make decisions that will alter her future in dramatic ways.
The beginning of this one was somewhat tedious for me as Cashore began to explain the geography and inhabitants of Katsa's world. This world building was necessary for me to understand the events of the novel and I eventually did appreciate it, but it took me awhile to truly settle in with Katsa. There were also more moments of boredom for me during the segment of the book in which Katsa and Bitterblue are on their epic journey. However, those would be my only complaints about this one.
The characters in this one are what makes the read so appealing - even for someone like me who typically can't get past a few chapters in a fantasy read. Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue were fascinating and I found myself wanting to know more about each one of them. I loved their interactions with one another and was surprised by their strong loyalty for the others. It was nice to see characters that had such strong convictions and stuck to them. I enjoyed Katsa's strength, intelligence, and tenacity. Its always nice to see strong female leads in YA reads. I have to admit though that Katsa wasn't my favorite character; her moodiness and stubborn nature often got on my nerves. I found myself much more drawn to the logic and humor that Po presented.
Graceling is Kristin Cashore's first novel - which one would never know from reading it. She has created such a detailed world and writes with such passion. I would have expected her to have numerous titles under her belt. This is certainly a rare find. This novel will appeal to both female and male readers as well as adult and young adult audiences. If you like adventure, bravery, and a dash of romance in your reads then this is the book for you.
On the Audio:
I opted to get the audio version of Graceling for three main reasons. One, I honestly still wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this one so I didn't want to give up my personal reading time in the evenings for it. Its quite the lengthy tome for a YA book and I didn't want to neglect the requests and new titles that I need to read and review for the blog. I typically default to audio for older books when I don't have time for them in my reading schedule. Second, I researched the best YA audiobooks from the past few years and Graceling repeatedly popped up on the lists. I figured if everyone thought it was well done then I should give it a try in that format. Third, Graceling is one of those audiobooks that is done by a full cast.
I loved being able to hear various voices for each of the characters in addition to the main narrator. It made it so much easier for me to keep track of all the characters. There are moments in books narrated by a single person that I lose track of which character is which, but that was not a problem with this one. Graceling played out like a movie in my head as I listened. This might just be the best audiobook I have listened to thus far.
One Last Gripe: Why did the King want Bitterblue? I am frustrated that this was left unanswered.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Katsa and Po's relationship
First Sentence: In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.
Favorite Character: Po
Least Favorite Character: Randa
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 Graced 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 . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.