Book ReviewGraceling

Reviewer's Rating: 
I truly enjoyed this book...and yet, it failed to rock my world because (see explanation in review).
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008

BOOK ONE: SEVEN KINGDOMS TRILOGY. 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.

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.

This book holds the distinction of being a very controversial book at the Elmvale Branch.  Within a month or less of being on our shelves, an adult reader had taken it home to read.  She brought it back and cautioned us that two pages had been ripped out.  Why?  Because it crossed a line you don't normally cross in Young Adult books.  But more about that later...I've got to get you to read to the end of my review somehow, right?

I found the first half of this book to be a tad tedious.  Author Kristin Cashore does a good job setting up our main character and what drives/motivates and touches the heartstrings of Katsa.  As usual, full points with me for a female character that is more than capable of defending herself physically - to the point of being dangerous if she loses her temper.  The synopsis of this book lays it on really thick, but Katsa doesn't kill anybody in these pages (okay, there's one exception due to desperation at the end).  She knocks her adversaries out and this doesn't require any bloodshed so don't turn away from this book if you think its all gore and guts.

Once the first half with all our set up was done, the story sped along quite nicely and I enjoyed the pace of the adventures, the chases, the problems our characters face.  Being fiction, Katsa seems superhuman at times but you know she's got the strength to barrel through anything she faces and her triumph becomes our triumph when she wins the day.  (Insert fist pump in the sky) Woo hoo!

Now back to the controversy which is also the reason this book did not receive a top rating of 5 boxes of Ginger reader hearts.  Young Adult is geared towards high school aged or mature grade 7/8 readers depending on the reader in question.  As such, the romance focus is kept light - on  purpose.  As a parent, I fully support this unspoken rule and those authors who toe the line and write good books get passed onto my 12 year old advanced reading daughter.  As much as I enjoyed Graceling, I cannot pass it onto my daughter just yet.  Katsa and her main squeeze, they, well, they squeeze all the way.  It is a small paragraph and  honestly the chemistry between these two characters was dry as week old bread, but it was there and that's enough of a reason to withhold this book until my daughter is more mature. 

I totally support the 'take what you like, leave the rest' philosophy on reading and certainly the adventure aspect and plot twists are thoroughly entertaining in themselves, but crossing the line and toting this book as Young Adult genre pushes the envelope just that bit too much.  Will I read the next book in this trilogy?  You betcha, but I'm an adult, not an impressionable 12 year old and that difference is key in my recommendation of Graceling.

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