Graceling by Kristin Cashore

5 Stars

When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?

Graceling was a wonderful book. It’s the first part of a trilogy but it can perfectly stand alone. Kristin Cashore wrote a colorful story filled with beautifully-written characters. The tone of the narration was neither too fast nor too slow. The pace was both slow and action-packed at the same time.

Katsa, the main protagonist, was a flawed yet incredibly strong character. You’ll be able to empathize with her easily despite her attitude problems. Her strength of character and willpower was so admirable that it was almost impossible not to like her. She was a girl who was aware of her imperfections and learned to embrace them. Po, the main male protagonist, was also a great character on his own. He was the voice of both reason and passion.

The world-building was excellent. In my head, the Graceling Realm was a beautiful kingdom and envisioning Cashore’s world through her text came very easy to me.

What I loved most about the book was the journey, Katsa’s journey. The entire book, from the first chapter up to the last, was one great adventure. I felt like I was traveling with Katsa and experiencing and seeing the world with her as she went. I was there when she and Po rode towards Monsea. I was there when they sought Bitterblue in the forest. I was there when Katsa and Bitterblue crossed the harshness of Grella’s Pass. I was there with her when she first saw the cliffs of Lienid, and I was also there when she fell in love. The feeling of being one with the adventure was what I loved most about this book… I felt the same way while reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Gaiman’s Stardust. As an avid fantasy reader, there’s nothing like taking part and feeling like you’re in that journey with the characters. The plot conflicts were serious yet not too seriously presented by the author, so the light and enjoyable fresh feeling remained as I read.

I love the way Kristin Cashore writes, and I was most pleased with her on how she wrote this one particular scene: *SPOILER ALERT*

“It’s in the medicines,” he whispered. “There is seabane in the medicines,” and his hands, and his mouth, and his body returned to her mindlessness. He made her drunk, this man made her drunk; and every time his eyes flashed into hers she could not breathe.

She expected the pain, when it came. But she gasped at its sharpness; it was not like any pain she had felt before. He kissed her and slowed and would have stopped. But she laughed, and said that this one time she would consent to hurt, and bleed, at his touch. He smiled into her neck and kissed her again and she moved with him through the pain. The pain became a warmth that grew. Grew, and stopped her breath. And took her breath and her pain and her mind away from her body, so that there was nothing but her body and his body and the light and fire they made together.

I never thought a sex scene could be written in such a beautiful manner. The sex wasn’t even explicitly said. Yet the choice of words were so careful, so tender and so pure… the emotion felt so raw and powerful at the same time. The strength in the subtlety was beautiful. Having been with the incredibly strong and independent Katsa since the first chapter, I felt how much this meant to her, and the way she described it with so much warmth and tenderness really reached through me.

Would I recommend this book? If you liked Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Stardust and Harry Potter, then most definitely yes.

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