If you were to ask me my favorite book, since the age of 13, my answer has steadfastly been Graceling by Kristin Cashore. My grandma gifted me this book (along with Twilight) for Christmas when I was in seventh grade. I’m not really sure which of those two books I was more obsessed with at the time but I devoured both of them within a matter of hours.
Graceling is a young adult fantasy story set in a world where if you are born or develop two different colored eyes you are considered a Graceling. Each Grace is different but it basically means that the person has some sort of extreme skill in regards to one thing. It could be fighting or mind reading, sewing or baking, or even something like being able to predict the weather.
It follows a Graceling named Katsa, a girl with one blue eye and one green eye and born with the Grace of killing. She is the niece of a king and has grown up as his thug, doing his bidding throughout the kingdoms. She then meets Prince Po and sets off on a deadly mission to uncover the secrets that could potentially destroy all seven kingdoms in their world.
I used to reread Graceling on a yearly basis. This was sort of my tradition with all of my favorite books. As I grew up though it got harder and harder to do this and I think was the first time I’ve read Graceling since high school. It was sort of bittersweet to dive back into this incredibly familiar story and I got so emotional as it unfolded over the pages. I know the plot like the back of my hand and I cheered on every triumph and got sad and angry at every obstacle. It felt like going home.
This story held so many firsts for me. The first time that I ever saw myself in a character, the first OTP I ever had, the first book that ever shocked me. It was life changing for me.
Katsa is a kick-ass female character that really stood out to me in a way that no once since Hermione Granger really had. She was hesitant about men, didn’t want kids, didn’t want to get married… She had a lifetime of trauma that led to her trying to be cold hearted and cruel because that’s all that she thought she could be. A killer. A girl Graced with the ability to kill anyone. It was almost heart warming to read about someone who felt like me in so many ways and that still could have someone fall in love with her and care about her.
Now rereading this story I see so many parallels between Katsa and Celaena from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas and I wonder if that’s another reason as to why I was so drawn into the ToG series when it originally was published. I think that if you are a fan of ToG that you should pick up Graceling as well!
After this reread I have decided to maintain my original rating of 5/5 stars. This book will be timeless to me and I think it will forever be considered my favorite. If you are looking for a unique fantasy with a really strong female lead I highly recommend picking up Graceling.
This following section contains spoilers:
This book is one that I will continue to read again and again. It’s such a unique concept and I still fall in love with everything about this book even now. However, now that I’m older there are things about this that I sort of wish I could change. Like I really wish that Katsa was asexual… Or demisexual. I just feel like there are so many reasons for her to be that way and sometimes I just consider her to be demisexual anyways. I absolutely love her romance with Po but it could have been just as amazing without the added sexual element.
I also have always considered Raffin to be gay or bisexual. It just made sense to me. He’s not really accepted by his father (granted this is because of his interest in chemistry and whatnot), the king, and he doesn’t really have an interest in getting married. He’s very close to Bann, his assistant but I never chalked that up to them being in a relationship (though I could be that crazy shipper if I wanted to). And I mean Katsa and Raffin had discussed they themselves getting married just because they’d each allow the other to keep on doing whatever they wanted to do. It would have been a marriage of convenience over a marriage of love and I think it would have been interesting just to see how Cashore could have written in a queer prince.
Other than that I feel like I was blind and still am blind to any issues this book may have and I was surprised when I read a note from the author in the back of the anniversary edition of the book that I bought to replace my lost original copy. Po has the Grace of being able to sense people and as the book unfolds his Grace strengthens to be able to sense just about every aspect of the world around him… So when he gets injured to the point of being blinded it never once occurred to me that his Grace being this “cure” for his disability could be considered offensive. But that’s what Cashore apologized for in her note. That at the time of writing she never realized how unfair it could be to write of someone who can be “magically cured” by this skill that he has. It was kind of shocking to me but it made a lot of sense and I really appreciated that she took the time to include that note in the new and future copies of the book.
I think that this is an important step for all authors to take when they realize that something that they had done in the past may be realized to be not “okay” anymore. It could have been so easy for Cashore to just let this go and ignore anyone who tells her that it might be considered offensive. I mean it’s just magic, right? Anything can happen in a fantasy world… But the fact that she admitted to being a bit uninclusive in her writing was really admirable to me.
Now I’ve got to go back and reread Fire and Bitterblue. I was always so unimpressed with Fire and I’ve only read it maybe three times and I’m not sure if I’ve ever reread Bitterblue so I’m very interested in seeing how my opinions on those may have changed over the years.
Now my question I pose for you is if you were a Graceling, what do you think your Grace would be? I feel like I would have ended up with something really pointless. A Grace for cooking would be kind of awesome though since I’m absolutely horrible at it. Or maybe the ability to speed read. Then maybe I’d get through my TBR pile in a bit more timely manner.
If you’re interested in picking up your own copy of Graceling, here’s a link.