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On a Book Bender

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

in ESR: 8, Fantasy, Review: Amanda

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
(Graceling Realm, #1)

Genre: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Read: 5/14/2012 — 5/15/2012
In Six Words: A truly vivid and entertaining tale.


Kristin Cashore — Website/Blog | Twitter | Graceling Realm Website
Amazon — Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle
Add it to Goodreads

Book Order

1. Graceling
2. Fire
3. Bitterblue


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 . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone

     With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.
-from Goodreads

Why I Started Reading This Book and Final Verdict

Graceling is one of Tara’s favorites.  By default, this means that Graceling is on my TBR list.  But when I found out that Kristin Cashore was signing books in the Twin Cities, I dragged myself (and my mom) to St. Paul to meet her and get a book signed for Tara.  I also (of course) picked up all three Graceling realm books while I was at the signing.  I knew very little about any of the books before the signing, but I really enjoyed listening to Kristin talk about her work and I began to get excited to pick up her books.  When Bout of Books rolled around a week later, I knew it was the perfect time to start.  And I did truly enjoy Graceling, even though at nearly 500 pages, it’s not a good read-a-thon book.  It was worth it, however.

My Thoughts

From listening to Kristin talk about her work, I figured I would probably end up enjoying her books.  So far so good.  My only concern about Graceling going into it was that a few people said that they weren’t fond of Katsa.  I needn’t worry.  I did not have any issues with Katsa.  I think her character was true to form.  There’s nothing soft and huggable about Katsa.  And with her Grace, that’s the way it should be.

The pacing of Graceling surprised me.  I’m not really sure why.  I went into this without preconceived notions (I barely even read the synopsis), but I think what threw me was how the romance progressed.  For some reason, I expect the romance to proceed right along with the plot, and the getting together part happening at the very end.  It didn’t happen that way here.  But I still loved the romance (and Po).  And I hope that we can revisit both Katsa and Po in future stories.

Kristin Cashore really has a way with telling stories.  I loved the concept of Graces, of Katsa struggling with her Grace, and finding herself.  Because I started this book after both Fire and Bitterblue have released, I was really intrigued and captivated by Bitterblue, knowing that she has her own story.  And I wanted to skip Fire and head straight into Bitterblue after finishing Graceling (I didn’t, and I won’t, but I wanted to).  I definitely want to immerse myself in this world more.  I do remember Kristin saying at her signing that she wish she would have spent more time on world building in this book, so I’m hoping with Fire and Bitterblue, I get an even better sense of the world.

If you’re a fan of fantasy and kick ass heroines, Graceling is a book you want to look out for.  Though this is probably more of an older YA book (think like Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder), I can see it appealing to a broad range of ages.

About the author: Amanda, noun: 1. Creator of On a Book Bender and Bout of Books. 2. Editor at The Path of Least Revision. 3. Lover of language and books. 4. Drinker of wine, coffee, and vodka. 5. Idea wrangler and wielder of words.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Felicia June 4, 2012, 6:54 am

    This is on my maybe to try YA list. I have heard that it isn’t YA so much as New Adult. I can handle that a bit better as some of the things I don’t like about YA generally don’t happen as often.

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 4, 2012, 8:42 am

      As my Fire and Bitterblue reviews come out later this month, I bring up the topic of whether this series should be considered YA at all. It really is more New Adult, and it’s definitely not your typical YA book.

      • Felicia June 4, 2012, 8:55 am

        That is awesome! Then I am going to pick up book 1 because it does sound really interesting!

  • Missie, The Unread Reader June 4, 2012, 10:35 am

    I’m one that didn’t really like this book or Kasta, but then again, I’m not much of a fan of fantasy. But I did love Po. :)

  • Alexa June 4, 2012, 10:42 pm

    I have yet to read this one but I’m hoping to get around to it this year. I know so many people rave about her books and her writing and I can’t wait to see what the fuss is all about. Plus now that more books are released its a great time to dive in.

    Thanks for the awesome review!

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 5, 2012, 5:08 pm

      I liked all the books, and I had them all to read, but I never quite felt the urge to go from one book to the next. I had to take a break. They are not short books!

  • Tyraa June 5, 2012, 1:42 am

    I liked Graceling the most out of the series, but I agree. This series is probably suitable for the older ‘Young’ Adults – especiallywith the dark themes in BItterblue

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 5, 2012, 5:10 pm

      Both Katsa and Bitterblue (in her book, anyway) were about 18, which is definitely a bit older than most YA characters.

  • Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal June 5, 2012, 12:50 pm

    Since I own this book, I believe I’ll have to read it once All Series, All Summer ends. That said, I didn’t read your review. I want to be totally surprised when I start the book.
    *steeples fingers and laughs diabolically*
    (I’m not sure why the diabolical side of me is trying to make a break for it. It just likes acting up on your blog.)

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 5, 2012, 5:12 pm

      Our next event will have to be one with a “read all the damn books we own” theme.

      I like your diabolical side. *thumbs up*

  • Hannah June 5, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Romance does tend to develop differently in YA fantasy then in other romancey books. I think it’s because they try to focus more on the story than the romance, more true to the stylings of adult epic fantasy than YA fiction. But yes, as a fantasy obsessive, it is about time I read these books.

  • SaraO @ TheLibrarianReads June 5, 2012, 2:14 pm

    I actually liked Fire better than Graceling! So don’t skip it ;) lol. I liked the character of Fire better than Katsa, she was a more aware of the changes she was making as a character – more thoughtful about her choices and also struggles in life.

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 5, 2012, 5:14 pm

      I didn’t! Bitterblue does tie both Graceling and Fire today, so I was glad that I didn’t skip around. :)

  • Rummanah June 5, 2012, 8:48 pm

    YAY! I absolutely loved Graceling. It’s about time we have a kick ass heroine who doesn’t have to feel guilty about not feeling girlie. I adored Katsa and fell head over heels with Po. *Sigh* You get to see plenty of Po in Bitterblue and Katsa too. As for Fire, it’s very different from Graceling. Much more intrigue and Fire is an interesting character. I have a feeling you’ll also love Brigan too. :)

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 6, 2012, 6:37 am

      I actually really like the way that Kristin Cashore portrays her female characters in these books. :)

  • Smash Attack June 6, 2012, 9:13 am

    THESE BOOKS! I cannot wait to hear what you thought about the romance progression in Fire! Seriously, these books bring the world building like no other!

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 6, 2012, 10:14 am

      June 18th! That’s when my Fire review goes up. And… that’s all I’ll say.

      Speaking of world building, if you haven’t read Bitterblue yet, YOU NEED TO.

      • Smash Attack June 6, 2012, 10:19 am

        Ugh. Tell me about it. I am seriously wanting to reread the other two first. Maybe it will be a fun summer goal…

        • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 6, 2012, 10:21 am

          I think that was Tara’s plan for getting ready to read Bitterblue. You two could have a Cashore reading party/mini-event!

  • Amy @bookgoonie June 6, 2012, 4:56 pm

    I absolutely loved this book. I agree. I’m not sure they are strictly a YA book. It and they (the whole series) don’t follow the typical relationship dynamics. I loved Katsa & Po as they started the quest, but when the end…*swoon* my heart turned into mush.

    Loved Fire, but very different. It was nice to not see the same storyline different characters. Bitterblue is on my chopping block for next week, if I can get my reading butt moving.

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 6, 2012, 6:47 pm

      Fire was VERY different, but I liked it. I loved how different this series is in regards to relationships.

  • Small Review June 10, 2012, 11:47 am

    Glad you liked this one. I’m kinda torn on it. I liked it and I appreciated Katsa’s characterization, but she also annoyed me sometimes. I wanted her to fully embrace Po, even though I understand that she can’t if she’s going to be a consistent character.

    I’m listening to Fire now and I feel like I’m missing a lot (I’m an awful audiobook listener), but I think I like her more. Again though, I don’t like her approach to romantic relationships. I do love Kristin Cashore’s world-building though.

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 10, 2012, 1:26 pm

      The romantic relationships were… not enough for me. Bitterblue was the worst in that respect. I think there’s a point as to why the relationships are the way they are, but I just want my characters to have a clear HEA.

  • Sarah (saz101) June 11, 2012, 9:46 pm

    I think the comparison to Poison Study is very apt, but that aside: AJFDKAGDLJAGDKDG! ME! NO EXPLAIN! HOW! EXCITED! I! AM! YOU! LIKED! THIS! SO! MUCH!

    I LOVE this series, and agree with everything you said… and what surprises me so much about this book is how fresh it is in my mind so long after reading it. It’s always just sitting there at the corner of my mind waiting to be discussed :D

    I am SO glad you didn’t skip Fire, because seriously? I think it’s even better than Graceling. I Like Fire more than I like Katsa. I think the world is beautifully developed. I think the characters are amazing, more nuanced, and more… shades of grey than in Graceling. You can see Cashore grow as a writer, and I loved that.

    ALSO. YOU HAVE TO READ IT FOR LECK. You learn so much more about him and it’s brilliant and oh my goodness I’m gushing and can you tell how much I effing love this series huhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh?


    • Sarah (saz101) June 11, 2012, 9:48 pm

      I was surprised at how quickly it happened; expected something more like Yelena and Valek, but I liked it… I ADORE Po. This is all :D

      • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 11, 2012, 10:10 pm

        How could you not adore Po? PO IS AWESOME.

        • Sarah (saz101) June 11, 2012, 10:12 pm

          Personally, I think Po is too good for Katsa, but that’s a whole different story. My cousin/BFF and I have had ENDLESS DEBATES about this fact. She thinks Katsa is young, and still growing at the end of the book. *I* think relationships takes compromise, which Katsa seems to take for granted from Po, but give none in return herself. ALSO, I think it’s a book, not real life, and what a nice, neat, happy ending at the end of book. Still growing? PFFT.

          • Sarah (saz101) June 11, 2012, 10:13 pm

            Or, as I could put it otherwise: cousin/BFF reads it like a mature adult. I read it like a romance novel addict, and finished it screaming “WHERE’S MY NICE NEAT AND TIDY WRAPPED UP IN A SHINY BOW HAPPILY EVER AFTER? HUH?! HUH?! HUUUUUUUUH?!”


          • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 11, 2012, 10:14 pm

            Have you read Bitterblue? I think it proves your point more than your cousin’s.

            • Sarah (saz101) June 11, 2012, 10:17 pm

              I haven’t, yet… I *OWN* it, but I haven’t yet read it. But now I’m intrigued. Also: I like being right… and proof to my points is excellent… and also a sore point with my husband… *having an argument* *pulls out Wikipedia* “LOOK! HERE IS PROOF YOU ARE WRONG! SEE?! SEEEEEEE?”


              • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 11, 2012, 10:19 pm

                *looks at you oddly* My review for Bitterblue will go live on the 27th. I expect you to read it soon SO WE CAN DISCUSS.

    • Amanda @ On a Book Bender June 11, 2012, 10:09 pm

      I DEFINITELY AGREE ABOUT LECK! It just made everything make sense.

      And yes, your enthusiasm for this series is somewhat muted, but I still picked it up, because I am astute like that. ;)

  • Sarah (saz101) June 11, 2012, 10:24 pm


    Errr… I think I might need more coffee…

  • Sarah (saz101) June 11, 2012, 10:27 pm

    Mmmmmmm… Pie…

    My stepmum in law makes amazing pie *is salivating*


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