Author: Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: 1 October 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
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.This book is hard for me to review, because it was hard for me to read. It's a long book, and there are long stretches where not a whole lot happens. A very large chunk of the book is based on Katsa and Po...walking. And riding horses. And talking. And not talking. And sleeping. And eating. And talking some more. And riding more horses. And catching fish. And eating rabbits. Should I go on? So much of this book is about the mundane details of Katsa and Po's journey to a far, far away land that I forgot, many times, where they were going and why they were even going there. When they finally do get there and something exciting happens, it's not long before they're back to walking and running and trotting and catching fish and eating them and on and on and on. It's like the action scenes are haphazardly thrown in so that the reader doesn't fall asleep from all the nothing that's going on in the novel.
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 . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
Where I'm torn is that Graceling isn't necessarily a bad book. I think the world that Cashore has created is wonderful, and described beautifully. I think the plot that occurs between the stretches of nothing is exciting and worthwhile. I just wish that had been the focus, rather than the mind-numbing talking and walking, etc. I get that these scenes are supposed to contribute to Katsa's "transformation," but frankly I don't see much of a transformation in her at all. It's obvious from the start of the book that Katsa is questioning her role as a killer, and I don't think her leap from questioning to defying was large enough to warrant 300 pages of development.
So, again, I'm torn. My first thought when I finished this book was thank goodness that's over. Which you would think made this a 2-star book for me. But at the same time, I can't compare it to the monstrosity of Jane, which was also a 2-star book for me. This book seriously makes me rethink my rating scale. For now, on the basis of comparison with other books I've given two stars, I'm rating it with 3. But I will probably never pick up it's companions/sequels, so don't read too much into that.