You can almost hear a voice-over describe the plot of this book, “In a world with seven kingdoms, the girl with one blue eye and one green has the Grace of killing. Loved by some, feared by many. She finds solace in another who is Graced, and finds the courage to face the wrath of her uncle, the King, and become free.”
But this just starts to tell the story of Katsa and Po, two who are Graced in the Seven Kingdoms. Katsa has been able to kill with her bare hands since the age of eight and is used by her uncle, King Randa, to do his dirty work. Anyone he wants manipulated or threatened is brought before Katsa, and they will soon see things as Randa does. When Katsa meets another who is Graced with fighting, a visitor from the kingdom of Lienid named Po, she finally feels like she has an equal to practice with.
As time passes, Katsa and Po set out in a rescue mission that brings them closer together in both their fighting methods and in friendship. This is a book that has a lot of things going for it: action and adventure, fighting (obviously), romance, and it moves along so quickly you will find find yourself at the last page before you know it. There is room left at the end of the story for a sequel, but there are enough ends tied up that you feel satisfied. There is just enough tension and turmoil between the characters that you may feel the need to tell them what to do. Even though you know they won’t listen.
Fans of Tamora Pierce will love Graceling, but don’t stereotype this book because of that. Yes, it’s a young adult fantasy with a female protagonist. But with Po egging Katsa on in spite of their obvious equality in fighting and intelligence, this becomes more than the usual girl-with-something-to-prove novel.
In October a prequel/companion book will be released, to be titled Fire. Also in progress is a companion novel set six years after Graceling, tentatively titled Bitterblue. Once you read Graceling you’ll know the significance of this title. I, for one, can’t wait for Kristin Cashore to finish these books. I think there are probably others who feel the same, based on the number of “Best of” lists Graceling appeared on last year.
Check the WRL catalog for Graceling