Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: Graceling, a book to kill for?

Finally! A new review! It has taken me a while to find the time for it but at last, the promised review of Graceling.

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Series: None (Cashores second novell, Fire, is set in the same world)
Release: October 2008
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Short Summary: In a world where some people are born with extreme and often-feared skills called Graces, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own horrifying Grace, the Grace of killing, and teams up with another young fighter to save their land from a corrupt king.

It has been a while since I've last read Graceling and the first thing that strikes me while writing this review is that the story didn't really stick with me. Which is not a very good thing. I do remember that I enjoyed reading it and I even recommended it to friends, but it doesn't make my top 10 of best reads. The characters are a little too flat to be memorable. Although the idea of being "graced" with the ability to kill is fascinating, it didn't really shine through the character. A lot of writers compensate this by creating a vast and memorable world around their character but Katsa's world is not one of them. I decided to reread the book.

I will start off with the aforementioned world building. This is a very important part of a Fantasy type novel because it influences the credibility and the way in which the reader sees himself in a different world. The first thing that I noticed about this was that the names of the 'countries' were a little too obvious. Five of them are called Wester, Sunder, Estill, Nander and Middluns, meaning west, south, east, north and the middle countries. The other two are Monsea and Lienid and fail to have any linguistic connection with the others. It makes the countries somewhat unrealistic and made up. To top it off, the capitals of the countries have the same name as the kings. So Randa City in the Middluns has a king named Randa an Leck City in Monsea has a king named Leck, and so forth. Furthermore, the book doesn't really mention any climate change, except in the mountains of Monsea where it is just plain cold.

The characters have every ingredient to be deep and memorable. They have these great abilities (Graces, a sort of extreme congenital talent) and they have been through alot in their lives. In some ways the author manages to bring them to life in a almost physical way. You get a very tangible image of the characters exterior but for some reason it lacks depth. You get the feeling you know the protagonist like having an acquaintance for a long time. It might have been more interesting to read it from Katsa's perspective in first persoon. Cashore really tries her best to shine some light on the characteristics. It is very clear that Katsa is stubborn and hotheaded but you don't really get a look beneath the surface. Both main characters (Katsa and Po) are very likeable. Especially Po raised my interest. I really liked the love that unravels between the two because it is subtle and not very cliché.

The plot (SPOILER ALERT) surprised me. The story of Leck and Bitterblue is original and I didn't expect it. The last chapters of the book are the best ones and they kept me interrested. The story hardens from the moment that Po gets injured and Katsa has to leave him to get Bitterblue to safety. A lot of people found the part where Katsa has to carry Bitterblue through the mountains implausible. It might be but I really enjoyed this part. It was one of the parts that stayed with me the most and this is the reason why I care less about the plausibility. Cashore also deepend the story behind the Graces, which I found very interesting.

Conclusion: Graceling is a very enjoyable read, especially for young readers who haven't read a lot of the Fantasy genre. Allthough it doesn't have the best worldbuilding or characters, the story is fascinating for everyone who doesn't know what to read next.
Rating: uu . . . 

I will also be reviewing Kristin Cashore's "Fire" soon (after I find the time to read it). But firstly I'll do a review on the second book of The Sookie Stackhouse Novells, Living Dead in Dallas. After that I will start reviewing The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. Stay tuned and be patient! Follow me on Twitter @FantasyReviews

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