You know, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this book once I started listening to it on audio. It has such a high rating, and I didn’t want to go into it expecting amazing things only to be disappointed… Well, I wasn’t! *cheers*
I absolutely adored this audiobook. I wasn’t sure I would but truthfully, when I started listening to audiobooks, I thought all of them would read (listen?) like this one: a narrator and a varying cast of voice actors for each character. Nope. Most books only have one narrator, doing the voices for all of the characters. Graceling stood out from the beginning in that aspect.
Title: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)
Author: Kristin Cashore
Release date: August 15, 2008
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, romance
Length: 471 (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “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.”
I definitely enjoyed the wide cast of characters. From fierce Katsa, niece to the king of the Midlands and his personal assassin due to her Grace, to young, wise Bitterblue. It was refreshing to read how Katsa felt about marriage and children. She was very explicit about her feelings–not wanting to get married or have children, and in this case, it’s understandable since women in the Graceling world seem to have little control. (Or perhaps that’s just in the Midlands?)
I was unconvinced of Katsa and Prince Po’s feelings for one another. At first, I thought it might just be a platonic relationship but then I remembered, wait, I’m reading YA. We don’t see many of those. (Not sure if that should make me laugh or cry. Maybe a bit of both.) I laughed at Katsa and Po’s banter, and in the end, genuinely appreciated the slow scenes as they traveled across the continent to find out more about Po’s grandfather, who had been kidnapped.
In terms of world-building, Cashore did a fantastic job, though there are still parts I’m a bit confused about. I don’t know if I missed it, but was it ever discussed how “being Graced” came about, i.e. an origin story? It’s explained how we recognized someone who is Graced, and how some Graces are extremely useful to the king (like Katsa’s) while others are not. I supposed I’m just interested to dig deeper into that, and hope the author will elaborate as the series progresses.
As for the characters, I found Po so enduring! He’s just a little cinnamon roll, and I wasn’t sure Katsa deserved him, but they both grew on me together as they grew together, too. One of my main complaints is not about those two characters, but rather Bitterblue. She’s very young in this book, about 10-years old or so. I don’t know many ten-year-olds who have her wisdom. Of course, this is a fantasy world, but I think there definitely should be some sense of believability. When Katsa and Po first come across Bitterblue in the forest, she definitely fits her age, but as the story progresses, I’m uncertain. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we know little about Bitterblue’s upbringing, only that her father, King Leck, is sort of maniacal.
I throughly enjoyed the ending. It didn’t end abruptly which I sort of expected since the next book (Fire) doesn’t follow Katsa. I adored the fiery passion between Katsa and Po, and after we learned what exactly happened to Po when Katsa and Bitterblue left him behind, I cried! I love their gentleness and how soft Po is toward Katsa. I hope they’re mentioned later in the series, since I also noticed the last book is titled Bitterblue!
You can purchase Graceling in most major booksellers, but here’s the convenient Amazon and Barnes and Noble links! 🙂 I’m going to attempt to leave links to the books I read at the end of the posts in case we’re all too lazy to Google it ourselves, haha. (These are links to the US sites.)