Graceling by Kristin Cashore
(Hardcover, Harcourt, 2008)
Katsa is a Graceling, prized by her king for her fighting skills and feared by his people. Gracelings are marked by their different colored eyes - Katsa's are blue and green - and by their extra abilities. Katsa is Graced in fighting. She has never met an opponent that she can't kill. Week after week, she is sent on missions to coerce people into doing the king's bidding. Little does he know that she has started a Council that helps protect the people of her kingdom and six other kingdoms. Katsa hates that her Grace makes her a savage and it is when she finally meets Po, another Graced fighter, that she begins to realize that she doesn't have to kill people in order to please a king. Katsa and Po set out on a daring adventure to rescue his grandfather and find out who is wreaking havoc in the seven kingdoms.
I devoured this book in a day and a half, and would have read it faster if I hadn't been interrupted so many times. Kasta's world is easily pictured and her struggle is one that we all face in some form or another. Katsa feels as if she has no control over her life. Gracelings are feared in her kingdom and only a few brave and kind souls will look into her strange eyes. However, that isn't enough to make a book great. What Graceling accomplishes is far more than painting a vivid picture of another world or creating a likable, suffering heroine. Graceling gives us a heroine who changes and shifts and grows (and kicks butt at the same time). Katsa has always thought of herself as a brute, an ogre whose only skill is to hurt people. But Katsa's Grace is a little more than being a skilled fighter and as Katsa changes her perception of her Grace, she also changes her perception of herself.
Some reviews that I've read complained about Katsa's eyes, saying it was unoriginal to have them be different colors. I thought this was an interesting way to mark Katsa and the other Gracelings. It served to show that she could never escape her Grace, that people would always judge her for it. I think this heightened her own insecurities and opened a new world to her when she met another Graceling who was accepted in his own society. I did get a little bogged down in the seven kingdoms...kind of wished there had only been 4 or 5 so I could keep better track of where everyone was going. But only a couple of kingdoms really played a part in the book so my memory problems didn't really matter. This book reminded me a lot of Tamora Pierce's writing, which is funny because after I read it, I realized that Tamora Pierce had written a blurb for the back! Cashore's world and characters are very different from Pierce's, but both novelists have strong heroines, just the right amount of action, dashing and fun heroes, and make me wish for a sequel. In Pierce's case, sequels are often the norm. I can only hope that Kristin Cashore continues to write about Kasta and her world.
Although I do have to agree with some reviewers in one regard...Po...what kind of name is that? :)
This was a great book with which to start off the year. Hopefully, this means that 2009 will be fantastic year of reading! And I do believe it will be because up next is Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart .
For more about Kristin Cashore, check out her blog. www.kristincashore.blogspot.com