By Kristin Cashore
Katsa was born into a world where people with extreme skills, or Graces, such as hers are to be exploited, feared, worshiped, and sometimes reviled. Her Grace is killing and she is used by the King of Middluns, her uncle Randa, to exact revenge, payments, and torture at his will. Katsa hates what her Grace allows her to do but knows of no way to escape.
On a mission, she meets Prince Po of Lienid who is Graced with fighting and combat skills. When he turns up in Randa City, she thinks she may have met her match, and for the first time in her life, finds a true friend unafraid of her Grace or reviled by her or her past deeds. Po has a way of getting to Katsa and in many ways her inability to trust interferes with their friendship. When Katsa makes a decision about her life, Po is the one that leaves Randa City with her and she becomes grateful for his friendship and understanding.
There’s a lot to like about Graceling. The world Cashore has created is wonderfully believable and the idea of Graces adds a fascinating element to the story. The true nature of a person’s Grace becomes almost synonymous with who and what he or she is. For Katsa, everyone with the exception of a few people close to her, fear her and what she is able to do. There is no one like her and with the knowledge that there should never be another, she makes the decision to not marry or have children. When Po appears in her life, her opinions don’t truly change but they do take on new meaning. The love story between Katsa and Po doesn’t feel thrown together even though I did have to stop myself from the eye roll when I saw it coming early on. The nature of the relationship between Katsa and Po changes, but she doesn’t, and they both grow and mature as the dynamics of the relationship become much more complicated.
While reading Graceling, I found myself a few times unable to put the book down knowing that some new challenge would be thrown at Katsa and I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to know how it would end. I read ahead, an odd habit I acquired as a child when I wanted to know how things would play out, and I employed that readily here when I wanted to know if a character would survive. No, I’m not going to tell you. This is one you need to read yourself.
Fire is the stand alone companion novel to Graceling. I’ve got Fire in my TBR and will be anxiously waiting for the third novel.