I picked up Graceling by Kristin Cashore because it was, what I thought, a relatively short fantasy novel to dig my teeth into before the festive period started. However, it ended up being a bit more of a slog than I would have hoped.
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Graceling focuses on the story of Katsa who has learned from a young age that she has something called a “Grace” which means she is a Graceling. Graces are talents that people have that sometimes give them almost supernatural abilities. Katsa grows up fearing her Grace is a hyper realised ability to kill.
Plot – 3/5
The focus of the story in Graceling is around Katsa meeting a boy who is the only person she has ever met who rivals her fighting ability. What ensues is a fairly generic and underwhelming love story between the pair of them as they go to meet the King of another land to decide his fate.
The main two plotlines across this book are that of Katsa’s internal struggle with her Grace being that of killing. She decides it’s a horrible talent to have, meaning she has to be careful with her temper and constantly leave her on edge around other people to make sure she doesn’t bring them any harm.
I’ll be honest, I never felt this story really got going. As I said at the start of my review, I was expecting this to be a shorter novel, however, it turned out to drag on slightly longer than I’d hoped and, despite this, I never felt like it really ever got going either. Part of this leaves me wanting to read the sequel as the characters weren’t too bad but there just wasn’t enough about the plot for me to care about.
Characters – 3.5/5
I have to admit, the characters in Graceling had me a little more enthused than the plot. They had a little bit more personality than the story happening around them. But they still weren’t anything to write home about. I was confused by a lot of their interactions. It completely loses my focus on a book when characters don’t react to conversations or actions in a way that I believe a regular human being would in the real world. For example, they snap at the smallest of things, they’re quick to anger to give the conversation some depth or, in this book, they fall in love with someone very quickly and for apparently no reason at all other than they have a nice body.
I can’t say I totally disliked the characters in this book as they were arguably all that kept me going, that and the slow unveiling of Katsa’s true Grace. But they just didn’t light the book up enough to make the seemingly plotless story that much greater.
Summary – 3/5
I’d heard a lot of good things about Graceling before I went into it. I’d heard it had fun loveable characters and an interesting world. Don’t get me wrong, there’s potential here that I feel Cashore could fill out in the following books but Graceling itself just felt very hollow, rushed and unfinished.
If you want an easy and relatively easy read, I’d say Graceling may be up your street. If you’re new to fantasy and don’t want too many fantastical elements, politics or depth, then Graceling will suit you. However, if you’re slightly more experienced with fantasy or like deep characters and a twisting plot, I can’t really recommend Graceling.