A few days ago I mentioned this book when writing about literary couples and their love stories. I realised then that I hadn’t written a review on Graceling, and that I should probably do so, after highlighting the main characters as being an example of a good romance.
Graceling is set in a world where certain people are born with a specific skill, known as a grace. This could be something quite mundane, quite specialised, or in the case of Katsa, quite dangerous. Her grace is killing, and she is used by her uncle, the King, as a human weapon to keep those who displease him in check. Katsa has set up an organisation known as the Council, to help those being wronged by rulers across the Seven Kingdoms, and slowly begins to question her uncle’s influence over her, as he frequently sets her tasks she does not agree with. When she meets Po, a Prince from another Kingdom who is graced in fighting, they become embroiled in a quest to work out who kidnapped Po’s grandfather and travel to the isolated Kingdom of Monsea, ruled by the mysterious King Leck.
I like fantasy stories and am not adverse to a little YA fiction, but usually when it comes to books that are a combination of the two, the love story element tends to take a back seat for me. The whole “I ♥ this guy” and “I’m team so-and-so” business is for the younger audience I feel. But in this case I really enjoyed the interactions between Katsa and Po – Po in particular is quite a laid back character and his likeable charm complements the irritable Katsa. The pair end up discovering new things about each other, changing their opinions of life and love, with Katsa making discoveries about her own grace that she didn’t even know herself. There are several twists and turns along the way, with one in particular at the end showing the real power behind being graced, and is a touching example of the real love that developed between the pair on their journey.
The secondary characters are also interesting, from Katsa’s cousin Raffin to King Leck and his young daughter Bitterblue. There is magic, a strong female protagonist, love, manipulation and danger – all perfect ingredients for an enjoyable fantasy ride which aren’t watered down in any way for the young adult audience. But you can’t escape the fact that it is for young adults, and if that isn’t your cup of tea, then perhaps this isn’t for you. But, for me, Graceling was one of those random books you pick up in the library on a whim, and so from knowing nothing about the book or the author, I came away having discovered something I really liked.
And, by the way, the companion book Fire and the sequel Bitterblue were just as enjoyable.