Graceling by Kristin Cashore

(Cover picture courtesy of Kristin Cashore’s blog.)

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…

Kristin Cashore’s debut novel is a well-written, emotionally resonant, fast-paced and surprisingly addicting masterpiece.  Katsa is a strong protagonist who does not just live for romance, as many YA characters do, but falls in love with prince Po by accident.  Even when she has to leave Po and go off on her own, she does not fall to pieces like a helpless damsel.  Instead, she rises to the challenge and brings down the villain.

Graceling is set in a well-developed world of enchanting beauty and petrifying horror.  It is full of light and dark and characters like Katsa, Po, Raffin, Leck and Bitterblue reflect this balance very well.  They have realistic motivations and are three-dimensional, which is more than I can say for many characters in young adult fiction.  Not only is the world believable and the characters are three dimensional, the plot is intriguing.  Graceling starts out like a typical YA novel, but Kristin Cashore throws in interesting and unexpected plot twists that keep you hooked until the end.

If you’re looking for well-written and very interesting YA novel for slightly older teens, Graceling is certainly the book for you.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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