Graceling, Kristen Cashore

Katsa is the niece of a king in the Seven Kingdoms. This sounds princessy, right? Either she’s a defiant maiden desperate to make her own way and help the poor commoners, or she’s a *giggle giggle* princess, with pink and sparkles. Right?

Er, nope.

You see, the Seven Kingdoms have a little genetic quirk. Every so often children are born with eyes of two colours, and that means that they are supernaturally gifted with some talent, or Grace. Sometimes the Graces are useful, like the woman who’s working in the king’s counting house, because of her gift with numbers. Sometimes they are less useful, like the kid who can eat rocks with no harm. In all cases, the Gracelings, as they are known, are in the employ of whatever king whose kingdom they were born in. No negotiation.

And when the Graceling is a girl named Katsa who killed her first man with her bare hands when she was eight, that means she’s her uncle the king’s pet executioner/torturer/assassin. This does not lead one to being the most dainty of girls, and Katsa wouldn’t have been the *giggle giggle* kind of princess anyways. She’s not interested in romance, or being pretty, or marriage, or having kids, or any other “girl things.” Her main interest is justice, which she pursues secretly when her uncle is not sending her to kill or maim people.

The book enters when she’s rescuing a kidnapped (royal) man from the dungeons of a nearby king. He’s being rescued because he hasn’t done anything, and also because, well, he’s the father of another king, which is why they noticed him being kidnapped in the first place.

She gets him out, being awesome along the way, and meets another Graceling. This wouldn’t be terribly bad, (she knocked him out fast enough) except for the fact that he then shows up at her uncle’s court in a few days. And it turns out he’s the kidnapped man’s grandson. And she was doing the rescuing secretly, so NO ONE MUST KNOW.

Does she kill him? (Spoiler: His name is Po, so if you’ve heard of the book you know how that ends.) Does she decide to be girly? (Cue feminist chorus of approval.) Who was kidnapping an aging grandfather who can barely walk by himself? (Trust me, the answer to THAT is awesome.) And why would they do that? Will Katsa ever be more than an indentured thug?

THESE ARE THE QUESTIONS YOU WANT ANSWERED?
YES, YES YOU DO.
READ THE BOOK THEN.

And now for what I thought of it. Uh, I think I was spoiled by reading Fire first. It was so very awesome, and dealt with such big themes, that I was disappointed this one wasn’t as good or better. Which, since this is a debut novel, isn’t really a fair expectation. And I kinda didn’t make friends most of the main characters. HOWEVER. I loved the world, a lot. And the plot, the plot was LURVE. *is in awe of the plot twist*

As for the characters, I’m pretty sure it’s not intentional, but I got a little miffed at how everyone in the novel who’s smart or gifted seemed to be royal. There were stupid royals as well, but the most a common person could hope for was to be “quick” and loyal. Which is such an antiquated notion that I’m VERY sure it wasn’t intentional, (I just read it at the wrong time of day and got my hair in a twist), and I’m glad that it got fixed (for the most part) in Fire. Love Fire so much…

I’m not going to comment on the marriage issue. I’ve heard enough on both sides for that, we don’t need me weighing in.

I gave it three stars out of five. I am greatly looking forward to Bluebitter. 😀

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