Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Deadly Katsa in GRACELING by Kristin Cashore

Hey Junkies! How I've missed you! Sorry this week's post is late but sometimes "real life" gets in the way of pursuing and chronicling my addiction. Sigh.

OK, let's get right down to it. Not since my She-Ra days, has anything made me want to jump up and fight invisible bad guys in the backyard as much as this book.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore packs a punch and Katsa is the ultimate kick-ass heroine. (I hereby challenge anyone to find a literary heroine tougher and deadlier than Katsa).

Cashore creates a fantasy world with seven kingdoms that fortunately does not require the reader to learn elvish nor refer constantly to a map, (and thank goodness cuz that would just kill our buzz). In this world, some people are born gracelings. They have two different colored eyes and a special ability that manifests itself in adolescence. Gracelings are feared and exploited, especially Katsa.

Katsa is an orphan (of course! This is a YA book, hello!) who lives with her uncle, a nasty king of one of the 7 kingdoms. Katsa's grace is killing. She can't be defeated in a fight, she's rarely injured, and she can snap a warrior's neck with a flick of her wrist. I told you, she's bad-ass. Katsa serves as a hired goon for her uncle, threatening and killing people who owe him money or have insulted him in some way.

Katsa has moral qualms about her role as a mercenary and secretly works to put her talents to better use. She meets Po, a graced hotty from another land. Po is the first person Katsa's met who can challenge her skills at fighting, and together they work to uncover the kingdoms' secrets.

Graceling is marketed for young adults BUT it is sophisticated enough to tickle my grown-up dendrites. It's beautifully and intelligently written and I never felt like I had to reach up and turn off part of my brain to enjoy it. Katsa and Po's relationship is so nuanced, I'm not sure most teenagers can fully appreciate it. Also, there was enough political intrigue, romance, and suspense to keep my mind busy that I never fully guessed the ending, unlike with some YA books.

Graceling is about a tough chick finding her humanity and learning to be vulnerable. It is wonderful to watch how Katsa is perfectly skilled at killing a man with her bare hands, but fumbles through simple social situations.

Cashore's characters are so real, I felt bad for their losses days after I'd finished reading.

Fire is on my to-read-list and I have a feeling I'll be posting about that heroine when I'm through.

Go read Graceling and then open up a can-of-whoop-ass on the bad guys in your yard when you're done.

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