by Kristin Cashore

Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: October 1st, 2008
by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt




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 think this aptly qualifies as one of those “it’s me, not you” cases.

With its abundant action scenes, a satisfying romance and a kickass main character, it’s not hard to see why so many readers have devoured Kristin Cashore’s novel. Yet, on the other hand, there really isn’t anything that sets it apart from other YA fantasies (Throne of Glass, Shadow and Bone, etc) either, which leaves me so heavily divided regarding the story as a whole.

In Cashore’s fictional society, there are some people who are born with extraordinary talents – “Graces.” These talents range all the way from mind-reading to being an excellent singer; and everything in between.

Our protagonist Katsa is one of these “Gracelings.” Her Grace? The ability to kill anyone who gets in her way. Her uncle, the King, has put her Grace to good use – forcing her to kill anyone who disobeys him. Only when she meet Po, a fellow Graceling gifted at combat, is she finally able to open her eyes to the truth about herself, her uncle, and her world.

If you like Celaena from Throne of Glass, chances are you will warm up to Katsa as well as they both have very similar perspectives on the world. Both are incredibly intelligent and fierce individuals who will do anything and everything to survive. The difference between these two characters, however, is Katsa has a much stronger belief in “feminism” (and I use that term loosely), almost to the point where it’s a bit unbelievable and irritating.

If she took Po as her husband, she would be making promises about a future she couldn’t yet see. For once she became his wife, she would be his forever. And, no matter how much freedom Po gave her, she would always know that it was a gift. Her freedom would be not be her own; it would be Po’s to give or to withhold. That he never would withhold it made no difference. If it did not come from her, it was not really hers.


This take on “feminism” within Katsa’s character was something that continued throughout the book, and something I can’t say I understood nor supported.

Your enjoyment while reading Graceling depends on two things: 1). how many fantasy novels you’ve read and 2). your opinion on “feminism.” While unfortunately this wasn’t quite my cup of tea, I do love the concept and the world Cashore created.


2 thoughts on “Graceling

  1. While Katsa’s opinion about marriage might seem strange to us, I think it might have been a commentary on the social structure of her world. It sounds like men pretty much “own” their women there… so I can understand wanting to stay far away from an institution such as marriage.

    That said, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book, anyway. I think my rating was similar to yours (I read it years ago). In my review, I said that I wanted to slap Katsa for the first half of the book; I can’t even remember why now! Oh, well.

  2. Uh oh.. I’ve seen negative reviews about this book that are sort of scaring me. I tend to stay away from popular books because I know most of the time I will hate them lol. I haven’t read it though, maybe one day I will. Thank you for the honest review though, I’ll keep the points you have made in mind once I read this book 🙂

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