Release date: UK September 2009
Genre: High Fantasy /YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Gollancz
Graceling is a fantastic, utterly gripping fantasy novel set in the world of the seven kingdoms.
Katsa is Graced with the gift of killing. Her Grace emerged at 8 years old. The Graced can be identified by their eyes – each being a different colour. Katsa is the niece of King Randa of the Middluns. When he learns of her gift, he realises he can use her as a weapon to control his kingdom and punish any disobedient subjects. As Katsa grows up, she hones her gift and tortures many men on the King’s orders. She can kill in hundreds of different ways with her bare hands and feet if necessary. Katsa’s Grace means that the other inhabitants of the castle fear her. They will never look in her eyes. She grows up almost friendless – except for the King’s son Raffin who is not perturbed by her skills – and perceives herself as a savage, cruel beast.
But Katsa is not the unfeeling, violent thug she thinks herself to be. Without even acknowledging her changing feelings, she begins to seek out those in need and helps them. Cashore’s characterisation of Katsa is infinitely layered and despite the cruel things that Katsa has done, I really loved her. She is feisty, fierce and relentless. Fans of strong heroines will find themselves in awe of Katsa. She is charming in her rough and feral way. In fact all the main characters in Graceling are brilliantly crafted. Po is a witty, sensitive and brave Lienid Prince who is also rather mysterious. He offers Katsa friendship sharing an understanding of what it means to be Graced. Raffin is entertaining and caring and a marvel with his medicines.
The story is driven by Katsa and the contrast between the actions she is forced to carry out and those that are of her own volition. I don’t want to tell you anymore about the plot. No spoilers here. You should uncover the mystery along with Katsa and not have me spoil it for you.
I have to admit I found this book unputdownable and an absolute joy to read. I haven’t felt so involved in a book for a long time. Usually I’m looking how many pages I have until the end – a by product of being a book blogger. But with Graceling I just didn’t want the story to end. I cried in places and laughed out loud in others. This book reminded me why fantasy is my favourite genre. I read to escape into another world and live another life – one peppered with magic. That is exactly what I found in Graceling. I cannot recommend it enough. Truly. It’s magnificent.