Series: Graceling Realm #1
Published by Harcourt on 2008 October 1
Buy on Amazon
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
She never expects to become Po's friend.
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away.
You must probably know by now that my appreciation for Fire just extended to the fact that it has a story to tell. You can read my review here. However, my forgiving nature got the best of me and that my optimistic side was inclined to think that Graceling (the series’ very first book to be published) was a better read. So will you come along as I try to recap all my views about this book?
Graceling started an estimated of forty years from the events of Fire. Beyond the realms of the Kingdom of Dells, another realm is in existence. Unlike Dell, this land is composed of Seven Kingdoms where people’s lives are directly or indirectly affected by Gracelings. Gracelings are humans who are naturally endowed with superhuman abilities at birth and they are identified by their mismatched eyes. These capabilities may range from being the most graceful dancer to being a cold-bloodied assassin. Each time a Graceling is born, the child will automatically become the possession of one of the Kings of the Seven Kingdoms. Depending upon the usefulness of the child’s power, the King will decide whether the child will be retained as part of his arsenal or not.
In the Middluns—one of the Seven Kingdoms—the sister of King Randa gave birth to a female Graceling named Katsa. And it was a blessing and a curse that she had been given the grace of being a human killing machine even at the young age of nine when she killed one of her distant cousins. And it is then that King Randa—Katsa’s uncle—saw this as an opportunity to use Katsa to bring pain/death to anyone who displeases him. In the world of the Seven Kingdoms, Gracelings were usually mistrusted and avoided, hence, Katsa had it a lot worse for she has been branded as a “murderous dog” by those who experienced, witnessed or heard of her killing prowess.
As Katsa follows the biddings of her uncle, she was also slowly coming into a realization that what she’s doing is bad. And thus, she created the Council, a secret organization who runs missions to deliver justice to the oppressed and exact due punishment to thosthose who deserved it. The members of the Council are diversified since its scope is the Seven Kingdoms.
During one of Katsa’s mission for the Council wherein she and a couple of friends retrieved a kidnapped Prince—the father of the Leined King—from the clutches of his captors, she met another Graceling who was almost as skillful as she was in close combat fighting.
Later on, the identity of this mysterious fighter is revealed to be Po and he is one of the grandsons of the rescued Prince. Po stayed at the Middlun Castle where Katsa is staying. Po decided to stay because he wanted to see his grandfather and to try to investigate the reason behind the kidnapping. Since the rescue mission was a secret, Katsa and Po made it look like the latter’s staying due to his desire to train with Katsa. The two soon became friends. The friendship however was suddenly strained when Katsa found out that Po’s grace was not really close combat fighting but mind reading. And that this helped him to know Katsa’s every move during their training sessions.
But the two eventually made up and decided to travel from Kingdom to Kingdom to investigate the events that led to the Prince’s kidnapping. The two agreed that they have to ride to Monsea—one of the seven kingdoms—where Po’s aunt is the Queen and married to King Leck. Although Leck has a very good reputation with children and animals, Po was not convinced especially that there’s circulating information that his aunt together with the princess barricaded themselves in a room where King Leck was not allowed. Po’s suspicion of the Monsean King became stronger when they heard strange stories of him and he theorized that the King might be Graced.
When they arrived at Monsea, they were immediately greeted by the scene of the Queen’s murder. They were shocked and grief stricken upon what they have witnessed. It was then that they realized that the King’s word is powerful and he is graced with words making people believe them even if it was an outright lie. During the incident, they’ve also met Bitterblue, the only child of Monsean King and Queen. Knowing what her father could do, she also fled following the death of the Queen.
Because of that, it became Katsa and Po’s mission to get Bitterblue out of harm’s way and finish King Leck. However, killing the King was difficult since Katsa’s mind is easily manipulated by the King’s words. So it was down to Po—because of his mind reading Grace, he is not affected by Leck’s words—to kill the King. So Po set to out to track Leck and assassinate him. But did not succeed since Leck was heavily guarded and Po went back to the hideout sustaining critical injuries. He instructed Katsa to bring Bitterblue—whom they successfully rescued—to Leinid for safety. They have discovered from Bitterblue that Leck was behind the kidnapping since it was a plot to make Queen Ashen and Bitterblue follow him with blind obedience. Due to the complex nature of the situation, Katsa was forced to bring Bitterblue to Leinid alone while her heart was grieving for her own true love.
While successful in reaching Leinid, another surprise has awaited Katsa and Bitterblue when they discovered that King Leck has already arrived there. A confrontation ensued and through Katsa’s love and devotion to Po, she was able to break free from the dictates of Leck’s words. Katsa managed to murder the King. This eventually lead to the crowning of Bitterblue as the queen and a start of new life for the Monsean Citizens.
Alright. Okay. So Graceling was a better book than Fire but generally, it wasn’t as impressive as I hoped to be. The first chapters were okay and I was actually flipping the pages like crazy. It was like being a house on fire where at the middle stage, everything went dull and gray.
There was so much potential that was wasted in this book. One, why did Cashore directed the heroes to go after Leck immediately when she could have created a twist along the way? And why did Randa—for his toughness and cruelty—just easily gave up on Katsa when he could have made efforts to make everyone’s life complicated? That would have been fun.
It’s just so hard to grasp that King Leck with his powerful grace was easily defeated. And it made him look like a warm up act. The story is poorly written like Cashore was in a hurry to be done with it. So yes, I also read the book without even bothering to stop and glorify how the story is unfolding. You can actually read the first chapters, skip the middle part and proceed to the ending. You will still understand it perfectly.
Despite my severe disappointment with this book, I am surprised to discover that I actually liked Po. He’s calm, focused, selfless and mature. Katsa’s okay but I didn’t like how she never overcame her fear of marriage. What’s up with Cashore with this one?
And Leck, the villain, was actually quite scary in Fire (the very first chapter that is). But in Graceling, he had lost that glory. I wish I had read more of him, to know him and to know what really pushed him to become evil. In Graceling, he only appeared near the end and was killed immediately. *sighs* I mean, come on!
Dialogues and Interactions
Dialogues and interactions weren’t really Cashore’s strongest points. Actually, looking back at the two books, I couldn’t seem to remember funny moments or exceptionally intense moments that would actually make your heart ache. I can’t even feel a lot of chemistry or be overwhelmed by Katsa and Po’s love for each other. There are books out there that even without the heroine and hero being together, you can still feel the love, the intensity of emotions that your heart will just cry and ache for them. Instead of this happening, I am merely annoyed of the fact that Katsa has to reiterate again and again that she doesn’t like marriage. And Po has choice whether to take it or leave it. Baahh!
And what about Bitteblue? She wasn’t a good actress. I can’t feel her loss. Perhaps I’m blind but I can’t see her agony of losing her mother. Yes, she was tough but it was hard to relate to her. The way she acted, it’s like she didn’t just lost the most important person in her life.
- Your choices define who you are- as demonstrated by Katsa and Po that even if they have dangerous graces, they still chose to be heroes than villains.
- That evil can’t be stopped and one must keep fighting to keep it at bay- So true because evil will always be there and it is up to us what we do about it.
This now ends my book review. I hope you weren’t discouraged by my harshness but instead keep you reading for more books to find the perfect one. What about you? What have you been reading for the past days? Did you enjoy it?