Science fiction and fantasy
by Kristin Cashore
Katsa is a complex character, afraid of her own anger and violence, and unaware of how other people see her. Her parents have passed away, so she's short of people to trust. Her servant, Helda, her cousin Prince Raffin, the teasing and critical Lord Giddon, and the manservant Oll form her inner circle, yet she's distant even from these people.
Katsa is fed up with killing or even harming others, but fears what will happen if she disobeys the king. This rebellious spirit sets the stage for a fun, rollicking adventure that gradually warms up into a tense struggle for the future of a number of kingdoms when Katsa learns of a spreading evil from a nearby kingdom. The story kicks into a higher gear around halfway through the book. Mixed in with the action is a slow-burn romance. This is a sweet and fairly soft focus love story, in that even when the romance is described on the page it isn't explained with biological precision.
The main issue I had with Graceling was that Katsa is something of a Mary Sue character, a perfect assassin whose flaws are mild ones that she can grow out of. The power that she has tends to lower the story's suspense, although she does meet her match later in the narrative. She has issues with closeness, commitment, and losing her sense of herself. The flip side of these aspects of her personality is that she is easy to relate to and a great wish fulfilment character.
The world is one of medieval kingdoms where magic is rare and limited and the cruelty or kindness of rulers changes everything. Graceling is a fairly conventional fantasy that relies on the drama between its main characters to hold readers' interest. These characters are a quirky, varied and sympathetic group (apart from the villains) and they are depicted believably. So this is an enjoyable and engrossing romantic adventure that I found easy to get carried away with.
26th September 2018
If you like this, try:Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers
A convent-trained assassin roots out plots at the 15th century Breton court. Book one of the His Fair Assassin series.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
A beautiful assassin must secure her freedom by winning a contest against other thieves and killers. But a year as a slave has left her weakened and out of practice.
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy