YA Weekend: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Graceling Ream

Publisher: Harcourt (October 1, 2008)

Author Information: Website

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Graceling audiobook came highly recommended to me and I can see why … it gets the full cast treatment! If you’re confident that you can get through the different narrators and music without getting too distracted, this can be great. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to nearly a couple hundred audiobooks to date, and probably only a handful of those have been completely full cast. I admit it took me a few chapters to adjust to this wonderful feature.

Regardless, I thought it was the perfect kind of story to get a full cast narration, with such a wide variety of characters and rich personalities. The title Graceling refers to the rare individuals in this world who are born with an extreme skill or talent. A “grace” can be completely random and … really, anything at all! It’s possible to be graced with something as awesome as reading minds or as mundane as cooking. At the center of this novel is a young woman named Katsa, who was born with the grace of killing. Power like that usually doesn’t go unnoticed, and her uncle the crafty king Randa has made her his personal enforcer and thug ever since finding out.

Then Katsa meets Prince Po, a graceling apparently gifted with the incredible skill of combat, and she thinks she’s found a kindred spirit. But as it turns out, there is a lot more to both their graces than meets the eye, and it takes a harrowing adventure for them to find out the truth.

In so many ways this story reads like a dark fairy tale, complete with your cast of larger-than-life heroes and wicked villains. Still, it all really comes down to Po and Katsa. Their romance was sweet and endearing, even if very predictable. But with books like these, it’s always obvious from the start who will end up together — it’s the journey that counts. The unique combination of their personalities and the inevitable clashes that result are the elements which make this particular love story special, not to mention a lot more entertaining to follow, especially when you’re throwing in the complexities of their graces.

Though Graceling is technically Katsa’s story, it was Po that stole the show, with his down-to-earth personality. He is the perfect counterbalance to the aloof and sometimes bullheaded Katsa, who is a flawed but also engaging character. It’s hard not to feel sympathetic towards her even when she is being her recalcitrant self, insisting on punching her way through her troubles. Mainly it’s because that defiance is so often a symptom of her desire to do good, even when she’s not sure how go about it. As someone raised to be a brute and nothing more than a tool to hurt people, it’s not surprising that Katsa can at times come off as a bit immature and difficult to relate to, but that’s the beauty of her characterization.

Graceling was a good book, but does it break the mold when compared to other works in its category? Probably not. But there are a couple things that make it stand out, the magical elements being one of them. I like the idea of gracelings and the fact graces can be either a blessing or a curse, though the book makes it seem like it is often the latter.

I’ll also be the first to admit to being totally jaded when it comes to romance in the YA genre, but if you’re thinking of reading Graceling for the romantic aspects, it’s definitely not a bad choice. Nicely developed with tastefully written love scenes, the romance scored some major points with me, and I give credit as well to the two voice actors playing Katsa and Po in the audiobook, who did a fantastic job capturing the emotions behind the relationship. Now if only that little jingle that plays between the scenes wasn’t so god-awfully cheesy. But you could do worse.

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