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Graceling
Kristin Cashore
Gollancz, 400 pages

Graceling
Kristin Cashore
Kristin Cashore has written for The Horn Book Guide, The Looking Glass: An Online Children's Literature Journal, and Children's Literature in Education. She received a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Graceling is her first novel.

Kristin Cashore Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Graceling
SF Site Review: Graceling

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

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I loved this book and its sequel or parallel novel Fire. For a first novel it's one of the most creative I've read and Kristin Cashore instantly became a favorite author which means I added a bookmark for her web page. Graceling is a delightful book with plot twists and turns and characters with real depth. The story unfolds at a rapid pace with plenty of intrigue and adventure coming to a satisfying conclusion that promises more to come. I am amazed that people can write books like this. Take it from one with a wall of pink rejection slips, I think it's a gift. I'm sure you'll find this a worthy read.

In Kristin Cashore's fantasy world, a land of seven kingdoms and seven thoroughly unpredictable kings, a Graceling is a child born with special powers. It may be in healing, science, spells, combat, etc. Gracelings cannot be recognized until about age three. At that time, their eyes will undergo a change resulting in eyes of two different colors. One eye may be blue and the other green such as Katsa's are. The color of the eyes does not indicate what skill the Graceling will show but it will begin to manifest itself shortly. In the Middluns, all Gracelings are taken by King Randa to be in his service. And here is where we meet Katsa who is also his niece.

Katsa has a grace that's very important to King Randa. Her warrior skills cannot be challenged. She has been trained since her grace manifested itself and she excels at every type of combat. She simply cannot be beaten and can take on crowds of warriors and come out on top. This is very handy to Randa and he often uses her as an assassin or to send a strong message to some other king or lord. Chapter one is like the beginning of a James Bond movie as Katsa fights her way to safety but on a secret mission of her own choosing that King Randa does not know about.

In the beginning of the story, Katsa is involved is smuggling Prince Tealiff, the father of the Lienid king out of prison in the court of King Murgon. Katsa belongs to a council that, in a Robin Hoodish way, tries to right the wrongs committed by the kings and nobles of the seven kingdoms. The council includes Prince Raffin, Randa's son, Oll (Captain of the guard), and Gideon (King Randa's underlord), and others. It is on this mission that she meets Po Greenling the grandson of Prince Tealiff. He is also a Graceling with fighting skills and is searching for his grandfather.

Katsa hates her grace. She does not enjoy killing but there is a certain thrill in the contest she cannot deny. She only kills when a thrashing of flying feet and hands is not enough. Katsa is often at odds with King Randa because she doesn't cause as much pain as he wanted. What she would love is a worthy companion. Someone she cannot beat but with which she could wear herself out without feeling guilty. She sees that person in the Lienid visitor Prince Po Greening who is also looking for his grandfather. He is much relieved to find his grandfather safe and agrees to an extended visit to train with Katsa, even though she beats him to a proverbial pulp every time they fight.

She sets out to punish one of King Randa's neighbors in the company of Gideon, Oll, and Po. By now Po knows all about the council and has become a trusted member. This is not a journey Katsa is looking forward to but she must obey her king. The others have accompanied her on council business. Of course they are all in love with her. Gideon even plans to ask her to marry him. Not sure I'd want to take a lethal weapon to my bed but to each his own. Po doesn't love her yet, but he is charmed by her.

Needless to say, the journey is an exciting one and I found it nearly impossible to put down the book. Of course the most interesting question is will Katsa fall in love with one of her suitors? This is an eventful journey as the council learns of some truly underhanded and evil plans to take over the country. All seven of them. To thwart these plans will require a united effort of the full council and the sacrifice of many. It is a noble and inspirational story. I was uplifted reading this book. And have nearly read it again while writing this review. Graceling is one of those rare books you just can't say enough good about.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at lostbooks.org (under construction).


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