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.