Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I have read a lot of really good books this year, I think in part because I've been getting some excellent recommendations from the blogosphere. All those blogs I follow have lead to a veritable mountain of books I'd like to read, and I'm rarely disappointed when I finally get to them. Which means that I am starting to get a little concerned, because I've read at least three books this year that are instant favourites -- The Wee Free Men, Airborn, and The Crow -- and that seems like maybe a lot. Except that now I have one that might top them all, for I have finished Graceling.

If I hadn't finished NaNoWriMo this year, I would have blamed this book. And it would have been worth it. Yes, I could have held off for a few more days to open it, but I didn't. Yes, I could have had the self-control to set it down, but I didn't. And that's okay.

This book was one of those that I was rather afraid to read, given how many people have loved it and how many brilliant reviews, from bloggers and industry journals alike, it has received. It couldn't possibly be as good as I hoped it would be. My expectations were too high, and I was destined to be disappointed. Now I've read it, and I wasn't disappointed: I loved this book so much I wanted to crawl inside it and stay there forever. This one is an instant comfort read for me, one that will sit happily on my shelf next to Range of Motion, The Blue Sword, Sunshine, The Changeling Sea, and Riddle-Master. I'll read it again soon. I may start today.

Katsa is a Graceling, born with an unnatural proclivity towards a particular skill. Her skill is killing; she is unbeatable in combat, and since she was ten years old, her uncle the king has used her as a weapon. She is his thug, forced to travel around his kingdom and torture, maim or kill at his whim. But she has started to chafe at these duties. Then one night on a daring mission, things don't go quite as planned when she meets another Graced fighter in the garden of a mercenary king and sets in motion events that will change her life forever.

I don't quite know what else to say about this book, but I will try to keep away from random adoring gibberish. It challenged my assumptions about what fantasy quest and/or coming-of-age plotlines look like, because a number of times it didn't go in the direction I expected it to, in the best ways. It has an absolutely stunning main character, who strides through the pages naturally and confidently, and when Katsa grows as a character it is so organic as to be unnoticeable except when you think back to the beginning of the story and recognize the changes. It has a male lead who is kind, competent, and strong without being overbearing and overprotective, who never once crosses those lines, even when those he is fighting for are not as capable as Katsa. It has a well-built world, a cast of characters that have hidden depths, and a truly gripping plot.

If you're reading this review and thinking it's too good to be true, I don't blame you because that is exactly what I thought too. If it takes you months to get to this book because you're afraid that it won't measure up to your expectations, I hear you. If you are one of those people who doesn't want to read it because everyone else seems to be doing so and you're thinking it's a fad, I can assure you that this is one book that deserves all the attention it has been getting.

I have lots of bloggers to thank for this one, because a lot of people have read and loved this book and kept pushing me closer and closer to the reading point. And I also have to thank Mandy's Spinner of Death-to-Impulse-Control because that's where I got my copy from despite my well-laid impulse-book-purchase-control plans.

10 comments:

Aarti said...

So clearly, I need to read this one before the end of the year! I think I'll pick it up once I finish slogging through Red Seas Under Red Skies. Tonight, I hope!

....Petty Witter said...

Thanks for this post and in particular your link to your review of The Wee Free Men, not a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, I also loved this story. Have you read Wintersmith by him? It is one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long while.

kiirstin said...

Aarti - It will be a good antidote (I just read your review) and there is only one very small part involving boats. Promise. It really is so good, I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Petty Witter - I'm planning to get to Wintersmith at some point -- I am reading all the Discworld books in order, so that one's a ways down the list. But now I'm really looking forward to it!

Cath said...

This one's going on my list for next year's reading as I've heard *so* many good things about it. I gather her second book, 'Fire', is also excellent.

kiirstin said...

Cath - I've heard that too! I've put Fire on my Christmas list, right at the top.

taraSG said...

I really, really loved this book! I've bought my own copy of Graceling and Fire, but haven't a chance to read Fire yet because I started rereading Graceling :)

Tara SG
http://25hourbooks.com

kiirstin said...

Tara - I hear you! I actually leant my copy away to my cousin before I could start re-reading... too much else on the pile! And also hoping to get another convert. She's a big Tamora Pierce fan so I see this going over well.

Darla D said...

I knew you'd love this. And I'm glad you did. You'll have to read Fire, soon, too. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on that one!

kiirstin said...

Darla - Hopefully soon! 10 days to go-time -- I mean, Christmas...

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I gotta read this :)