Graceling by Kirsten Cashore and Strong Female Leads

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Well I am back from camp and am enjoying some well earned down time. Right now I am sitting in one of the leather chairs in the Starbucks in Union Square on a crowded day so I consider that a win in my book.

I am a bit behind on this blog because of my time away so today I will be reviewing a book I read a few weeks ago. One of my friends has been telling me to read Graceling by Kirsten Cashore for months so when I finally had time and didn’t know what to read I gave in and read her copy.

Graceling takes place in a fantasy world where certain individuals are born with graces or special talents that set them apart from the rest of society. They are identified by having two different colored eyes. Katsa, the heroine of Graceling, is graced in the art of killing and is used by the king as his own personal weapon. Despite this bleak existence, Katsa has managed to make a few acquaintances in her society, and go on more humane missions of her own. It is on one of these missions when Katsa meets Po, another Graceling from a neighboring kingdom. From there the story continues.

People who enjoyed reading books by Tamora Pierce when they were younger (or if they still enjoy her books) will like Graceling. As I was reading I felt like Katsa and Alana, one of Pierce’s heroines, would be friends if they lived in the same world. Cashore’s work is similar to Pierce’s in that it features strong female characters in an adventure fantasy setting. (My 13 years of education at a girl’s school is starting to show again). Tamora Pierce’s review of Graceling is even on the cover of the book. She says,

Here’s a WOW of a book! Seeing half-wild Katsa learn humanity as she battles soldiers, storms, and her own obsessive nature – I HAD to know how it ended! – Tamora Pierce

Despite these similarities in genre to Pierce, Cashore does make the world of Graceling uniquely her own through character, plot, and voice.

What I liked about Graceling was the interactions between Po and Katsa. Call me a nerd but I always enjoy good character development, and character development tends to be the focus of coming of age stories like this one. As I have stated before, I hate it when a girl meets a guy who is perfect, helps her solve all the problems in her life, and because of him she sees herself as a worthy person. I have read books like that in the YA genre that I think do deal with important issues well, but the whole perfect boy flawed girl thing bugs me. (feminist education once again). Thankfully, Graceling is not one of those books. Yes, it is a coming of age novel, and yes Katsa finds a lot out about herself, but Po does too. It is a coming of age story for the both of them, as they learn about the world they live in and the graces they both have. They are both strong characters, and neither is perfect, which is nice. I like seeing how they work through their problems, troubles, or imperfections. I thought some of the plot could be put into more detail, having to do with relationships etc., but the way Cashore wrote coincided with the way Katsa saw the world, so that made sense to me. I also thought the story became slow in one part but ended strongly and I would definitely suggest it as a good read.

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6 thoughts on “Graceling by Kirsten Cashore and Strong Female Leads

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