Book: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)
Author: Kristin Cashore
This is one of those books that I feel like I’ve heard a lot about since I started blogging, but just never got around to reading. I picked it up last year at YALC, but for whatever reason didn’t get around to reading it last year. It was on my #RockMyTBR list for this year though, so I finally read it. I was expecting great things because it sounds like the sort of book that I would love from the concept and I had heard so many great things but I have to admit I was sorely disappointed. I was expect a great epic fantasy and honestly……I’ve read much better. I’ve read so much fantasy by now that I know what I like and can be quite critical when a book doesn’t live up to my expectations. Here’s a short synopsis of the book:
In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are both feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.
Feared by the court and shunned by those her own age, the darkness of her Grace casts a heavy shadow over Katsa’s life. Yet she remains defiant: when the King of Lienid’s father is kidnapped she investigates, and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap the old man, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced man whose fighting abilities rivalled her own?
The only thing Katsa is sure of is that she no longer wants to kill. The intrigue around this kidnapping offers her a way out – but little does she realise, when she takes it, that something insidious and dark lurks behind the mystery. Something spreading from the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king…
First off, the language bothered me. It was really old fashioned and Cashore had a really odd way of phrasing things that I found really hard to get used to, her writing style was really rather strange and it bothered me all throughout the book.
I liked the concept but I wish it had been explained more. We never really get to understand how Gracelings happen, whether it’s genetic or just random or whatever and I really wish that had been explained more. Maybe I was missing something there, but I just didn’t really understand it.
Katsa as a character bothered me. Don’t get me wrong, I like the strong and independent woman as much as the next person (possibly more) and I appreciated that she never wanted to marry or have children because that is a legitimate view that some people have, not everyone wants to get married or have children, as someone who’s never really been in love with idea of children, I totally understand that. However the kind of feminism that the author was perpetuating with her story bothered me. It’s the radical feminsim like Katsa’s that gives feminism a bad name. I don’t like the idea that to be a strong woman you have to despise anything feminine (Celaena in the Throne of Glass series is a strong indication to the opposite) or that in order to be strong physically, you have to be weak emotionally (says who?) or that being physically strong is the only way to be a strong woman and I think that’s a really problematic message to send to young women. I don’t consider myself any less of a feminist because I like to wear dresses, that’s just absurd. I just think that a lot of the messages sent by this book were problematic. Katsa was very ragey and emotionally stiff and very dense about the emotions of other people and I just couldn’t connect to her at all which obviously took away from my enjoyment of the book. Also her name reminded me of Katniss and that was very distracting (though I like Katniss much better as a character).
The names were all very strange and I found that very distracting, all I could think about was how stupid they were. I mean Po? All I could think about was the Teletubbies (not to mention that Po in German means butt which is something I hadn’t thought about until now!). I also kept misreading the name of the character Giddon as Gideon. I know that fantasy has strange names but when there so strange they take you out of the story, you know it’s really bad.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy novel that talks about periods before (in fact I’ve never really read any books that deal with periods much) and I know some people think that periods should be included more in YA but personally, I read for enjoyment and escapism and I really don’t want to read about something as mundane as periods (though it is only a very short mention here).
I liked that there was a map in the book, I love it when books have maps, especially fantasy books, it makes it so much easier for me to visualise the world and I can keep flicking back to see where the characters are and where they’re going (though I have to admit, the thinly veiled places names of North, South, East, West and Middle were not really very creative).
I wondered if the characters Raffin and Bann were gay and in a relationship, it wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the book and they could just have been friends, I might have been reading too much into their relationship but I felt like maybe that’s what the author was implying?
I really liked Po’s grace, I thought it was really cool (and could totally understand why he was secret about it). I understood why Katsa was pissed also at first, but I liked seeing her journey to accepting his Grace.
I wasn’t sure about Katsa and Po’s relationship, I loved the back and forth banter between them, that felt very natural but it felt like their relationship progressed way too fast, one moment they were just friends and the next moment they were having sex, they hadn’t even kissed first. The sex scene kind of caught me off guard since I wasn’t expecting it and it was more explicit than I was used to.
I hated Katsa’s treatment of her horses, it was basically animal abuse, she didn’t care about them at all, was willing to run them into the ground, was going to ride her horse when it was lame and rode her horse into the back of Po’s in order to get his attention, which was really dangerous! As a rider and a horse lover, I could not condone the way that she treated her horses.
Bitterblue I felt was very bland as a character and her dialogue was so unbelievable, she talked like she was so much older than ten years old and acted like she was so much older than ten years old most of the time as well, she wasn’t believable as a character at all.
There were a few exciting action scenes but on the whole the book was very slow and mostly filled up with the characters journeying and I know this is a common theme in fantasy but usually the characters do something exciting on their journey, the characters in Graceling were mostly just journeying and it was really dull.
The villain (King Leck)’s grace was terrible and it’s hinted that he abused his daughter with it which is awful, but he was a very one dimensional villain, there was no explanation provided as to why he was so evil, he was just evil and personally, I like it when the motives for villainy are explored and villains are three dimensional. Also for such an evil villain it was remarkably easy for Katsa to defeat him.
I also felt that Katsa’s Grace was a bit ridiculous, I mean I know she is graced, but she does some incredibly unbelievable things even for someone who’s graced, it’s like she’s superhuman and I really didn’t like that.
The world development in this book was also very lacking, we don’t really get any history of the world or any of the kingdoms (other than the leaders names) and we get no development of the Gracelings other than that people hate them except for in Lienid, I felt like I didn’t get to know anything about the world at all.
It makes me very sad that I did not really enjoy this book as I was hoping that I would, the concept was good but it was poorly executed and I don’t think I will be reading any of the author’s other books, at least not any time soon.
My Rating: 2.5/5
My next review will either be of Twisted (an e-ARC I got from Netgalley) or A Darker Shade of Magic, depending on which I finish first!