Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Do you ever read a book, and get so into the story and characters and setting that you just want to crawl inside the book and live in it? I was like that with Graceling, and after reading the whole book in one sitting, I swear I went through withdrawal. I needed more! I wanted to go back in time and read it again for the first time, to experience the excitement, suspense, and ass-kicking all over again. Okay, with that out of the way, let me tell you what the book is about.
Graceling takes place in an alternate world with seven kingdoms, each with their own royalty and rules and traditions. Because of the alternaverse setting, there's not really a time period given, but it is basically like medieval times. Here's another plus for the book: I'm SO not into medieval shit. I'm the last person to read books with lords and ladies and once a month baths, and yet I want to turn this book into a suit so I can live in it every day. In this world, every once in awhile there is a person who is "graced," which means that they are incredibly talented in one area. Graces range from being really awesome and useful (cooking, singing, mind reading) to lame (spelling, always knowing what time it is without looking at a clock, etc). All gracelings can be identified by their two different colored eyes, and because in most kingdoms, all gracelings are sent to the king for his own personal use, parents dread their child one day developing Kate Bosworth eyes.
Katsa, the main character and a total badass, is the niece of King Randa, and her grace is (gasp!) killing. FOR REAL. Katsa is Sydney Bristow, Buffy, and Lizzie Bennet all rolled into one. So Randa is a mean, unforgiving king, and he sends Katsa all over his kingdom to kick the shit out of anyone who so much as makes him wrinkle his nose. It's pretty stressful being a killing machine, and being seen as ONLY a killing machine, as Katsa is. She's actually famous in all seven kingdoms for her expertise. Katsa tries to combat her evildoing and use her powers for good by founding a secret society that goes around undermining the evil king's dastardly plans.
Okay, here's the part where I'm going to get vague, because I don't want to spoil anything (you do NOT want spoilers, believe me). Katsa ends up going on a mission (not King Randa approved) to rescue the father of the King of Leinid (one of the seven kingdoms), and while on this mission she encounters another Graceling, the Leinid Prince Po. Po is out to avenge his grandfather, and Katsa, being the one who rescued him, is the first person he goes to.
Remember how Katsa is graced with killing? Well Po is graced with fighting, so the two of them are incredibly happy to find someone to train with who they can actually fight. The fight scenes between these two are so awesome, and it's great how they help each other not only become better fighters, but better Gracelings. Mini-spoiler! There's more to Katsa and Po's graces than just killing and fighing.
So the two of them set off to find answers, and it's way more than they ever expected. I really think it's better to read the book without knowing what happens in the second half, so I'm going to leave the rest of the book out of my review. Let me just say, I yelled out loud, cried, practically peed my pants, and ran three whole gamuts of emotion while reading this book.
Also, Katsa is so motherfucking awesome I cannot even get over it. I would even say she's more hardcore than Katniss. YES I DID JUST WRITE THAT. I love her so much. I could write a whole gender studies thesis on how Katsa is one of the greatest role models for young girls in the last 20 years of literature. In fact, if I had read this book while I was in school, I probably would have.
Overall Grade: A+