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Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Published: October 1, 2008 by Harcourt

Pages: 471

Series: Graceling Realm, #1

Genre: Fantasy

Favorite quote: “If there’s anyone I wish to stun at dinner, I’ll hit him in the face.”

Katsa is a Graceling, and a very deadly one at that. Gracelings are people with an exceptional talent for something, like singing or juggling or knife throwing. Katsa is Graced with killing, and this makes her very valuable to the king.

With Katsa as his weapon, King Randa ensures that everyone in the seven kingdoms respects him. If his people disobey, he sends Katsa to maim or kill them. Katsa’s reputation precedes her; people tend to flee when they see her. Every man, woman, and child knows who she is. She can take down anyone.

But Katsa isn’t happy cutting off fingers, breaking arms, and killing King Randa’s enemies. She wants to help the people who are oppressed. She wants to be free. She hates the looks of fear. She hates the state dinners the king forces her to attend. She hates the men the king wants her to marry. Her idea of freedom does not include marriage and children.

 On a secret mission to rescue a kidnapped Lienid prince, she meets Po, another Graced fighter who is close to Katsa’s level of skill. She’s intrigued by him, and he’s intrigued by her. The Lienid prince is his grandfather, and he’s determined to solve the mystery of why he was kidnapped. So is Katsa, and the two become friends…and eventually more…

I love this story. Cashore does a wonderful job of world-building, and her characters are so multifaceted and engaging. I loved, hated, and once again loved Po. I loved Katsa. My heart broke for Bitterblue, and her part of the story wound up being my favorite. Oh, and the names! All the names are so unique. Bitterblue. Kinda weird, but it’s part of the world.

Graceling is one of those stories that starts off a little slow (but not too slow, in my opinion) but picks up and never slows down again. The characters seem simple at first, but as the book goes on you realize that they aren’t so simple after all. Even the romance seemed to develop naturally, and that’s something few YA books manage. I read this book in just over a day, and I couldn’t quit thinking of it when I had to put it down. It’s that good.

I would recommend this to YA fantasy fans.

Rating: 5/5 stars