Tuesday, 13 August 2013

[REVIEW] Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristen Cashore
Published: October 2008
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: Graceling Realm #1
It has taken me many years and many tries to finally finish this novel. Long ago when this novel was first released I had given it a try and didn't get past the first couple of chapters. And so Graceling fell into my pile of books I didn't like. Then years passed and my friends read it and implored me to give it another shot but I'm a stubborn person and I don't like giving books another shot if I tried reading them already. So last year I was gifted  a copy of Graceling on my birthday with a sole condition: that I tried reading it again (and a gift receipt was included in case I really really didn't like it). And so there the book sat, gift receipt inside it, on my piles of books. Did I consider returning it? Yes. But did I? No. After finishing another wonderful hyped up book, I decided it was finally time to give Graceling another try, and I'm happy to say that  because of my friend's persistence I have finally read this wonderful story.

Now onto the review. Graceling takes place in the world of Seven Kingdoms (I thought it to be similar to Cinda William Chima's Seven Realms) where people may be born with a 'Grace'. Think of a 'Grace' as a superpower. There are some people that are Graced in swimming, climbing trees, and cooking. While there are some Graced with more dangerous abilities like sword skills and archery. And then there are people with Graces that are mind powers such as mind reading or telling the weather.  Every Grace is identified with eyes that are two different colours. The colours appearing when their Grace shows itself. It's a very peculiar concept, one that I find direct similarities to another book but that's for another review.

Graceling follows the main character Katsa, a blue and green eyed girl gifted with the Grace of killing, and Po, the golden and silver eyed 7th prince of the kingdom of Lienid, who is Graced with the ability of hand to hand combat. The story starts out with Katsa running a secret mission because she has decided to make use of her Grace and do secret missions around the Seven Kingdoms and help those that aren't being helped or correct wrongdoings that have happened. Practically everyone knows who she is and what she is Graced with. Her uncle uses her skills for his own ambitions and although she absolutely detests it, she doesn't fight it. Well I guess her secret missions is her secret revolt against her uncle, who is king of the kingdom she is from, but lets be honest I just think she does them to feel some control.

So Po comes into her life and the story takes off with their growing friendship and eventual love life.

It's a lovely story filled with action and drama, although not that much romance scenes because it is YA after all. I didn't question the direction the story took, albeit I was confused sometimes but I just continued reading and moved on. Eventually the story straightened out for me.

I enjoyed reading the book immensely, up to one point in the story. I would call it the pivot point because that's when the story went slightly down hill for me.
[SPOILER ALERT] Shortly after Katsa and Po admit their feelings of love towards one another Katsa realizes that NO she is not Graced with killing but rather with survival. When I read this I was flabbergasted, not with happy surprise but at the sudden revelation and of how odd and strange it was.  Sort of like the author was trying to explain Katsa's amazing outdoors skills and her inability to get sick and thought 'Hmm...what do those have in common? Survival! Okay her Grace is now survival' Well okay I can accept survival for some aspects of the story but how does that explain all the things she did for her king. How can she break someone's finger under the guise of survival? Okay one can argue that perhaps she had to for her own survival because the king would kill her is she didn't but seriously, does that make sense? I'm scared for my own life because the king can kill me, a girl Graced (at the time) with killing...doesn't that sound strange to you? So, the story took off after that and I found it oddly convenient that Katsa was graced with survival, because otherwise how would Po, Katsa, and soon Bitterblue survive the outdoors? How would Katsa get Bitterblue to safety? Seems to well thought out. Almost forced. And I hate forced plot. [END SPOILERS]

Although Po and Katsa are amazing together, I think the best part of the story was when Katsa is with Bitterblue and they're trying to escape the evil king through the mountains. There's a sense of raw emotions and panic in a way. I could fully feel Katsa's determination and her constant attempts at ensuring that both if not Bitterblue survives this travel.

The main "battle" scene was, although rushed in my opinion, a great build up. You see Katsa surprised with who she finds and then the evil king talks and talks and talks and you get the sense of nervousness and anxiety building up inside Katsa until she lets go and that's it.

I'm not a fan of the ending. I mean it's an open ending. You don't really know what happens for Katsa and Po. Do they stay together? Does Po return back to his castle? What about everyone else in the story? The ending doesn't tie up every loose end, and I'm not sure if the author purposely did that so there was room for sequels (or companion novels)

This was a wonderful read and although delayed, I'm still happy I had a chance to read it and fully appreciate this beauty.

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