April 7, 2012

G is for...Graceling

As you probably know, I'm ploughing through Kristin Cashore's Graceling books. And as I've already mentioned a time or two, I have no idea why I waited so long to read them. They're just that good. So today for my letter 'G' post for the A to Z Challenge, I'm going to go with GRACELING and GRACES. I'll explain what 'graces' are in a moment, but first here's the Goodreads description:

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.

I guess that synopsis explains what GRACES are, but in case you didn't catch it, they're "extreme skill[s]" that only certain people are born with in Graceling's world. As you can well imagine, the powers that be in any world--our world or Graceling's world of the Seven Kingdoms--would want to keep these graced individuals close, making use of and all too often taking advantage of their extraordinary abilities. And that's where we first find Graceling, forced to act as the king's bully.

Oh, and then there's this:

In the Seven Kingdoms, heterochromia (though, it is not referred to as such in the books) marks all those who have two different eye colours as 'Gracelings'. Katsa's grace as a lethal fighter makes her virtually unbeatable, but with this ability comes a great deal of shame, not to mention loneliness. I'll refrain from going any further into the story to avoid spoilers because that's just jerky and lame.

I should preface anything further by stating that I'm not normally a big fan of fantasy (with the exception of Tamora Pierce's books). So I came to this story with a bit of an attitude. Graceling has been on my shelf for a few years now, but I wasn't jumping at the chance to read it. When I won an ARC of Bitterblue, the 3rd in the series, I felt that I couldn't waste the opportunity to read it before it was officially released. Rocks*, am I glad I won that ARC. Here's what I love about Graceling:

1. Katsa's World
I loved so much about the world from which Graceling springs--the Graces, the subtle differences between the kingdoms (Lienid sounds beautiful), the names, and so much more that I can't express. In my copy of Fire (Book 2), Cashore discusses all the pleasures and pitfalls of worldbuilding in a fantasy novel. It's really fascinating stuff, and much of it things which had never occurred to me.

2. Kickass Heroine
I'm not going to say too much here because I'm saving Katsa (joined by Katniss) for my 'K' post in the A to Z Challenge. What I will say is that Katsa feels like such a well-rounded character. She may be kickass--owing in large part to her Grace--but she's also just a girl (standing in front of a boy...never mind) struggling with her identity and the choices she'll make in life. Totally relatable.

3. Romance
One of my favourite aspects of nearly every story I read is the romance. Sure a compelling story is a must, but the romantic angle is often what keeps me glued to the page. The romance in Graceling does not disappoint. At all. I'm Team KatPo all the way (bahaha...sounds a little like 'cat poo'**).

4. The Story
The first couple of chapters didn't pull me in as quickly as I would have liked (though, I was more than likely tired or distracted), but after that I just couldn't put it down. I cared a lot about Katsa, really wanted to hug Raffin, couldn't wait to read more about Po (and Po + Katsa), was creeped out big time by the villain (I won't say more), was shocked by a thing or two, and just generally got completely wrapped up in Cashore's world and words. I want these books to just keep on coming.

If I haven't sold you on Gracling, I'm not sure what will (maybe the 54,608 ratings and 4.13 on Goodreads?). Fire was also pretty fantastic, and so far Bitterblue has the makings of greatness***.

Before I wrap up this great big beaster post, let me leave you with a Graceling-related question:

If you could have any GRACE what would it be?

I think I'd either want a GRACE like Graceling's, or I'd want to be fearless (my list of phobias is a mile long). Here's one in Bitterblue that should appeal to moms the world over: Not needing sleep.
*A G-rated cuss word in Graceling.
**Just about as bad as Katniss + Peeta = KatPee or *ahem* if you put Peeta before Katniss in the equation, a part of the male anatomy which shall not be named on my mostly G-rated blog.
***The ARC is a beast! It's more than 1.5 inches thick, which is awesome when it's unputdownable.


  1. Admittedly, I just skimmed your post because I'm only about a quarter of the way through GRACELING and I want to be completely surprised. Glad to know you loved it though, because I'm loving it too! The image of the blue and green eyes is awesome, by the way... Totally how I picture Katsa!

    1. I avoided spoilers as much as possible, but I can totally understand not wanting to have your opinion of the book swayed in any way, shape, or form. If you're enjoying GRACELING, you'll really like the two that follow as well.

      Also, I think if I had a cat with eyes in two different colours, I'd definitely call it Katsa (get it?) :D

  2. I've just started Graceling as well, and I picked it up BECAUSE of the Tamora Pierce blurb on the front. I feel the same way about high fantasy too, but Pierce really makes it accessible and interesting and modern, and so far, so does Cashore. Excited to finish! *runs off to read book*

    1. I still have more of Tamora Pierce's books to read. The TRICKSTER'S ones were my favourite, but I also loved the Alanna books too. Makes me kind of giddy with happiness that I still have more of hers to get to :D

      Cashore is very similar, like you say, in accessibility. I like Fantasy Lite and Sci Fi Lite.

  3. I've heard great things about this!

    1. It's really good and hard to put down :D

      P.S. Welcome!

  4. BAHAHAHA Jaime, oh the choice tidbits in this post:
    -"...just a girl (standing in front of a boy...)" TOTALLY caught that reference. ;)
    - dude, I was completely creeped out by the villain, too. So scary! So unnerving! *shudders*
    - "KatPee" and the part of the male anatomy which shall not be named... :D

    And to wrap up this rather incoherent comment, I loved Graceling too, so much. The romance! The kick-buttness! The careful twist in the plot! :) :) :) So excited for Bitterblue.

    1. Glad you caught the Notting Hill nod :D And glad that you loved GRACELING as much as I did. Such a great book that I will be rereading at some point. I'm not very far into BITTERBLUE, but it's just as good as the ones that come before :)

  5. GRACELING is on my TBR list, so I will read it at some point--hopefully soon, but my must-read TBR is quite long! What I want to know is, what's David Bowie's Grace? (You know he has heterochromia, don't you?) And, for the record, I got the Notting Hill reference (one of my "guilty pleasure" fave movies, because guys are not supposed to like movies like that, but Richard Curtis is such a good writer, and it shows in that movie...). And the whole KatPo/KatPee... lol... :)

    As for what Grace I would want? Hmmm... assuming these are enhanced natural abilities (so being able to fly or being invisible are both out), perhaps super intelligence--like John Travolta in Phenomenon, only without the consequences (say no more for those who haven't seen that movie)?

    Great article, as always, Jaime! :D

    1. I didn't know that David Bowie had heterochromia. Hmm. Maybe his Grace is best displayed in Labyrinth? And I don't mean his ability to wear skin tight pants, puffy shirts, and metal band hair lol :)

      I'm a big Hugh Grant fan, so of course I love Notting Hill. Spike (Rhys Ifans) pretty much cracked me up too. He's actually not a bad-looking guy in other movies I've seen (Vanity Fair), but you'd never know it from his role as Spike.

      Without giving anything away, I'd say that certain Graces cross the line from enhanced natural abilities to something more supernatural. Intrigued? I hope so :)

  6. I have to admit I liked FIRE better than GRACELING. I did like Katsa but Cashore's whole no-marriage-no-babies was shoved down my throat a little too much in both books. I am strangely a hardcore shipper of FIRE and ARCHER in FIRE and I did enjoy KATSA and PO but not as much as A/F. I know.......most people love Brigan lol...I find him okay. I am really looking forward to BITTERBLUE...it comes out on my 23rd(ickkkk) birthday :)

    1. I think I liked GRACELING better, but I loved FIRE too for entirely different reasons. I'm a Fire and Brigan shipper, but there were things about Archer that were appealing (and things that were not so appealing at times).

      Wow, your 23rd birthday (I'd kill to be that age again--I turn 34 this year) has some good reads coming out on it--BITTERBLUE and INSURGENT. Great day for reading! :)

    2. I know, I know. I should be blessed at 23. It just makes me feel strangely old...as in the years i've been alive and the fact that children younger than me have never seen a VCR. O_O But I do bask in the great looks I've got - I get asked all the time if I am 16/17. LOL!

      As for Archer - yes he had good points and flaws, but I think that is what made him so attractive to me. (I ship Brigan with his original babymama - he does not get sidetracked in MY Fire universe lol)

      Also w/BITTERBLUE - Jaime, who is Leck again?? :/ I can't remember. Is he the 'boy' in the beginning prologue of FIRE?

  7. I'll really need to get into this series now as you keep making it sound so wonderful.

  8. I loved Graceling and LOVED Fire. I wish I had a storywriting Grace. That would be awesome! Then maybe I wouldn't have so many re-writes!

  9. Graceling, Graceling, Graceling, how I love that book. and here comes Bitterblue!

  10. Oh how I love Kristen Cashore's writing. I loved both books and can't wait for Bitterblue.

  11. I need to get that book :D I simply do!
    Sounds amazing!


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