Released: 22nd January 2009 (UK)
Publisher: Gollancz (UK)
Source: Library book
Reason for reading: Recommended by everyone
In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are both feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.
Feared by the court and shunned by those her own age, the darkness of her Grace casts a heavy shadow over Katsa’s life. Yet she remains defiant: when the King of Lienid’s father is kidnapped she investigates, and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap the old man, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced man whose fighting abilities rivalled her own?
The only thing Katsa is sure of is that she no longer wants to kill. The intrigue around this kidnapping offers her a way out – but little does she realise, when she takes it, that something insidious and dark lurks behind the mystery. Something spreading from the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king...
I was really pleasantly surprised by Graceling. I wasn't expecting much which is why I took it out of the library instead of buying it for myself. I quite like it when you go into a book sceptical and end up devouring it, completely absorbed by the story and the characters. I loved Katsa, she was the epitome of an independent female; physically strong and skilled, intelligent and resourceful and of course, a little prickly. Po, at first I was obsessed with how stupid his name was, but I quickly got over that. He was so patient with Katsa which I liked. Most people seemed to view her as either an amusement, a pest or someone to avoid in terror, but Po really liked her for who she is and I liked that.
I was really intrigued by the plot, I thought it was going one way and then it changed and evolved several times in a really interesting way. I loved the whole journey aspect of it. It was really interesting to see so much of the country they lived in in such an organic way. I enjoyed watching the developing relationship between Katsa and Po; the roller coaster of emotions that were faced by them...well, mostly by Katsa. It was interesting to watch her process her own emotional journey, she learnt so much about herself and her interactions with others and I like those sorts of journeys.
What I liked the most about the story, I think, was watching Katsa's relationship with Bitterblue. They went on a literal and a metaphorical journey; travelling such a long and treacherous distance and learning so much about themselves and each other. It was a great way to see how much Katsa had developed as a person; old Katsa would probably have left Bitterblue and saved herself; new Katsa put Bitterblue before herself in every situation.
I really liked the big build up of the story, I all of a sudden thought "I know what will happen here" and it did and I was just so...dismayed. Like I could feel my heart sinking into my stomach, which then dropped down to my knees. How could this have happened after such a journey? It just wasn't fair! And then, for the whole thing to be over so quickly....I was shocked. But in a good way like, I couldn't believe it was over so quickly and simply. I liked that though; normally I would have been disappointed but I just loved the characters so much and wanted it to go well for them.
It helped that the real challenge came later. What happened towards the end was so tragic, but the way it was handled was so wonderful. There needs to be sacrifice in stories sometimes in order to be realistic. It was a little bit of a bittersweet ending, but I'm happy with it.
TL;DR: Graceling was a surprising novel for me and it really kickstarted my enjoyment of fantasy. A richly detailed world surrounding a wonderful story and realistic and likeable characters. I enjoyed it so much I bought my own copy.
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