Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Opposition Rising: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

What’s Worth Fighting For: Freedom or Love?

Just the facts:

Overall: 4 stars

Addiction Level: I ignored the hubby and puppies until I finished the book. (Actually Himself was hunting, but my poor girls went without attention.)

Believe-ability: I daydream about the created world and wonder how I fit in. (What might I be graced with, I wonder? Himself says, “Blowing your nose like a trumpet”. … Yeah, not cool. How’s that going to save me when we have a full-scale rebellion?!)

Favorite quality: Sheer kick-ass-ness. (I may have made that up, and I’m pretty sure you won’t find it listed as a Fruit of the Spirit.)


First, a quick note about the book. I’m not one for writing a lengthy description of what you will find in a book. In fact, I usually don’t give away much of anything that you’ll find in a book-maybe two or three sentences of randomness. (That’s one of the reasons why Rebecca and I are such great partners, because she writes a great synopsis.) So here it goes - Graceling is a shining example of a fantasy story complete with its own dragons that, in this case, are not dragons at all but rather Gracelings. When Katsa, graced with killing, runs across a stranger on her way home from completing a job for her Uncle, her world begins to unravel. Soon Katsa realizes that there may be more dangerous Gracelings lurking in the Seven Kingdoms than herself.

On to the good stuff. Like why you should read the book and REALLY LIKE it (ahem, Rebecca)! First off, we finally have a book with a decent heroine! (Katniss aside, of course.) There are so few books that have a really powerful heroine. So, forget about stumbling damsels in distress when you can have a torture inducing, hard headed female hit man. Katsa is independent, strong willed, and courageous. Plus, she doesn’t need a man to get things done or show her how to do it. Check one for the ladies.

Now, I’ve read many accusations that Cashore wrote Graceling with a primarily feminist agenda. I have no idea if that is the case, and to me, it doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist by any means, but I do like a story that provides a character that young girls can look up to. (Perhaps my love of kick-ass characters (male and female) stems from my love of Jackie Chan? You know, kung-fu awesomeness and all that.) Does Katsa make some choices that I would disagree with? Yes. Did I make some choices that my mother disagreed with? Probably, I’ll have to ask her.

Secondly, the fictional world of the Seven Kingdoms really intrigues me. The idea of people “graced” with such mundane to amazing skills is delightful. I truly enjoy fantasy stories with all the medieval qualities that go along. Sword play, hand to hand combat skills, and the knowledge of how to take care of yourself is something I adore. Can you imagine the absolute responsibility you would have? I don’t think half my family would make it. Actually, I know they wouldn’t.

Lastly, Graceling has plenty of action and adventure. A fantasy story just isn’t complete without it. If for nothing else, you have to admire the story for its action. Katsa is constantly running across the Kingdoms completing missions for her Council, the King, and herself. You can’t tire of a story where the main character never slows down.

So there you have it, a young adult fantasy that features an intense heroine, an intriguing fictional world, and plenty of action and adventure. What’s not to like?


Just the Facts:

Overall Rating: 2 Stars = It was ok.

Addiction Level:
  • At first I read it every waking moment.
  • Then I read it when I had spare time.

Believe-ability: The setting is believable.

Graceling was exciting, thrilling, odd, and somewhat disappointing. It is about a young woman trying to discover her identity and mission in life. I admire her for trying to navigate through manipulation, lies, and truth. As she learns who she is and what she can do, she becomes quite invincible. It is set in the time of castles, kingdoms, and kings and queens. Katsa begins the book as a thug and ends the book more sure of herself. Go Woman Power! (Her independence is not what I object to Esso!)

The first third of the novel I was on edge of my seat devouring pages. Once I hit the journey with her soon to be lover (only), my heart dropped. I never fully recovered from her "romantic lifestyle" choice. I continued to read hoping she would change her mind. I kept repeating "Please reconsider!" as a mantra in my head as I devoured the final pages. Our value systems are so different that her choice ruins the book for me.

I think I reject her choice for several reasons. 1) I know how hard it is to find true, and I think she is selling herself and her lover short by only committing to lover (come and go as you want) status. I think they can each have everything they want and need out of being married to their friend and lover. 2) I think it is incredibly selfish to only think about oneself. I believe she is only considering herself in this matter. Love is a two way street; it gives and takes. 3) I think the message it sends to teen readers is misleading. Though not intentionally, I think it advocates doing what feels right (sex or otherwise).

If one is able to step into a fantasy world full of choices and independence, go for it! Read Graceling.

If one objects to “do what feels right at the expense of others,” then reader beware.


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