Graceling – Kristin Cashore
Katsa serves her Uncle, the king, by killing and torturing anyone who threatens to wrong him. This is her skill, her grace, and just like some people serving the king can sing or cook or ride extraordinarily well, no one can match her ability to fight. She’s got a secret side gig where she fights for the little guy and tries to save the world from the abuses of power, but she still thinks of herself primarily as a killing machine. And then she meets a prince from another kingdom who challenges her to rethink everything she took for granted about her life and what she could expect from it.
I won’t say much about the plot, because descriptions of any of its action could quickly turn into spoilers. Even spoiling some of its small moments would be a shame because there were so many times where the anticipation and enjoyment of a banter-filled conversation brought me such joy, and my husband just started the book today. I think I read half of the pages twice because I enjoyed them so much.
Still, it only took me about a day to read the whole thing; I was fighting off a cold and so I hid in my office all day reading. But mostly I just loved this book. The often creepy plot (the bad guy is really scary), the romance, the LOTR-ish perilous journey towards evil, the romance (the romance is so fun). I want to start rereading it immediately but will probably settle for counting down the days (months) until the next book, a prequel, comes out.
I know I bring a very critical feminist eye to the YA books I read, or at least the ones that take on issues that I consider central to my feminism. From that perspective, there is a lot of meaty stuff here. And I appreciate that the two main characters often have different ideas about what constitutes strength, though I don’t think Katsa helps evolve Po’s ideas in the way he does for her. In fact, I might criticize what a Mary Sue he is, except that I love him too much and kind of believe he’s really that great. I like that the happy ending isn’t a happily-ever-after sort of thing and think that it was true to the characters. I like that Katsa uses birth control, and wants to teach girls how to stand up for themselves and fight, and completely trusts in her abilities and never apologizes for that. I like that Po turns into a term of endearment a word that a creepy, misogynist guy used to belittle and sexualize her.
So yeah, I loved this book and glad I listened to all the praise it’s gotten. I feel like I’ve been really lucky this year with highly-praised books. Which makes my decision to dive back into 2666 hard to keep since I just got What I Saw and How I Lied, The Spectacular Now, and Pretty Monsters today, since they are all also highly praised YA books that I’ve been looking forward to.