I first saw this book when working at a Barnes and Noble, but passed by it many times. I’d read the back, shrug and say, “Eh, maybe later”. I follow a good amount of people on Goodreads, and one of the people who has a similar interest in books as me wrote a raving review about this book, so I finally decided to read it.
If you don’t know anything about this book, I’ll add the synopsis from Goodreads (which is also on the back of the book).
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.
Warning: SPOILERS Ahead! Read at your own risk!
It took me a looooong time to get into this book. I don’t know why, but I just felt skeptical of everything. A lot of YA Lit nowadays has your typical love triangle, or the main (female) character who proclaims she’ll never marry/has children does get married/has children, and if there’s a male character and a female character, they fall in love. Boom, you now have a YA novel for 2014.
Graceling was a nice surprise. Firstly, there’s no real love triangle. Yes, there’s a tiny one at the beginning, but it’s barely worth mentioning. I will say that as soon as there was word of a Lienid prince at the court of Katsa’s uncle, I knew it was the same boy as before, and that Katsa would be falling in love with him.
I was already so damn annoyed but the “callous girl is softened by the suave new guy in town” thing just made me want to throw the book and never pick it up again. The only thing that saved it? That review I’d read before. How could somebody I know (and whose opinion is usually so on point with mine) be so wrong? So I continued to read…and read…and read…
Essentially, the two travel around looking for reasons to why Po’s grandfather was kidnapped. I really disliked the way Katsa just “realizes” she cares about Po. Reflecting on it, I know that she fights with herself over her feelings, but it goes from them just acting like travel-mates to immediate lovers.
The book really turned for me when Po & Katsa come upon King Leck killing his wife. I don’t know why, but this is when the story really caught me. Essentially, Po isn’t affected by the king’s Grace and tells Katsa to hide (along with the found Princess Bitterblue) until sunset; if he’s not back by then, they were told to leave. Just as they were about to leave, Katsa sees Po barely clinging onto a horse, bleeding from multiple arrow wounds. So she goes running to him and so, to make this somewhat shorter, Po is really horribly hurt so Katsa is trying to do all that she can to make him better. So on they go and they find this cabin and Po forces Katsa to leave him there to heal. That scene right there… I mean…
She was crying and then he was crying and they were both crying because there was like a 98% chance that if he didn’t die from starvation or freezing to death, the king’s soldiers were going to find him and kill him. I mean, he couldn’t even walk at this point. My heart was just in pieces at this point. SO Katsa, feeling super awful but very responsible for Bitterblue’s safety, leaves Po.
Okay, okay, I’m good now.
Anyway, Katsa then takes Bitterblue over some mountains and across the sea to Lienid, where she’ll be safe. It also turns out that Po gave Katsa this ring (since the Lienid wear like 800 rings that each signify something) that actually gives her his palace and all his inheritance sooo she’s kind of like “Well hey, I can use that as a fortress!” Katsa and Bitterblue make it to
Po’s Katsa’s castle and the maids are all aflutter, talking about their master being home. Immediately, Katsa’s like “Wait what?” but is too excited to really think about it. They’re ushered into the meeting hall/room and who’s sitting there?
The god damn Monsean King.
And now he has the whole damn royal Lienid family under his stupid little mouthy mind control. Son of a bitch. Son. Of. A. BITCH! I was at work today and this snarky little fucker swivels around like Leonardo God-Damn Dicaprio in Django Unchained (See: ).
So he starts running his mouth, talking about how they’re at his castle, and then he’s asking if Po is alive (which Katsa tells him because she can’t resist his Grace), but then he slips up. Yes, ladies and gents, he does! See, Po’s family (other than his mother and grandfather) doesn’t know about Po’s “I-Can-Hear-You” Grace. So King Leck (the King of Monsea) starts talking about Po, and how interesting Po is, and gee, there’s something different about Po. Katsa, still trying to fight Leck’s Grace, realizes that he’s going to say something that could really hurt Po and does the first thing that comes to mind: She throws a dagger into his mouth and kills him.
Soon after, everyone realizes that they were under Leck’s Grace, and that Po is still out in that god damn forest so let’s go find him! Now, remember: this has been over the course of at least two months? Po’s father, King Ror, gets six of his fastest horses (because Bitterblue refuses to be left behind, and King Ror forbids the two of them to go without a guard) to go help Katsa and Bitterblue find Po.
Off they go, back to Monsea, to find that little cabin where they left Po. Katsa, being Graced with the stamina of twelve men, is about to run the horses into the ground trying to get to him when:
“Still doing your best to ruin the horses, I see.’
Katsa froze. The voice came from above rather than behind, and it didn’t sound quite like Skye. She turned.
‘I though it was supposed to be impossible to sneak up on you. Eyes of a hawk and ears of a wolf and all that,’ he said- and there, he was there, standing straight, eyes glimmering, mouth twitching, and the path he’d plowed through the snow stretching behind him. Katsa cried out and ran, tackling Po so hard that he fell back into the snow and she on top of him. And he laughed, and held her tight, and she was crying; and then Bitterblue came and threw herself squealing on top of them.”
Good sweet lord, I’m pretty sure I almost screeched with joy at work today! So perfect, so cute. They’re reuinted, it’s cute, but Po’s different – really closed off, not the same “free spirit” he was. Turns out those wounds he took was worse than they thought and he’s blind now. So after a lot of soul searching, he decides he wants to go back home and Katsa wants to go train girls to defend themselves and they don’t get married and then it kind of ends there. Yay!
All in all, it was a good book. Wasn’t exactly the best book I’ve read, but after the first half, I was totally sucked in.
And now I’m reading the sequel. You win this round, Kristin Cashore!
Rating: 3 out of 5
What did you think? Did you read Graceling? If so, did you enjoy it? Why or why not?