Graceling by Kristin Cashore

a review by Rebecca Muir

I really enjoyed reading Graceling, a debut novel by Kristin Cashore. It drew me in right from the start – from the very first page I wanted to keep reading, and that continued throughout the book. It was definitely hard to put down.

The story is set in a mythical land of seven kingdoms in which some people are marked out as different – gracelings, who are gifted with superhuman ability in a particular area, from mind reading to herb growing. These gracelings are easily identifiable by their eyes, which are different colours. They are targets of hatred and suspicion, shunned by most of the population. By law they are the property of their king, to be exploited as he sees fit.

The heroine of the story is Katsa, the niece of one of the seven kings, graced with killing. Her uncle, a cruel and greedy man, uses her abilities ruthlessly.

The book follows Katsa as she struggles with the shame of being a human killing machine. Her world is rocked and changed when she comes across a stranger, graced with fighting, who is the only person who can match her in a fight. Who is he, and why is he where he should not be? As the book progresses, their lives become interwoven as Katsa seeks to discover the truth about an old man taken prisoner, and to unravel secrets stretching across the seven kingdoms.

The book is full of action and adventure, but ultimately it is a book about identity and friendship. Katsa must come to terms with who she is. She must learn what it means to trust others, and what it means to love. It is a coming of age book that will appeal to older teens, but will also be enjoyed by adults.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 5, September 2011.  This blog has been pre-dated to reflect the date of original publication.