Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Published: October 1, 2008 by Harcourt
Source: Purchased from Amazon
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... [goodreads]
A few weeks ago, while participating in The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday, I realized there were quite a few non-contemporary "popular" YAs that I had yet to read. GRACELING being one of them, I decided to leave the habits of reading just contemporary fiction, and ventured into the world of YA fantasy. Immediately I was captivated by Cashore's writing and I had a feeling I'd be pleased with this notion to try something different for a change.
If you're new to this genre as I am, then you should know that fantasy fiction is not just about magical powers and far away lands. In fact, I've discovered that fantasy has some of the most romantic story-telling, even more so than those steamy romance novels I read. There's a sense of beauty among Cashore's words as she describes the seven kingdoms, their landscape so vividly laid out as if my own eyes could see its rivers and mountains emerging from the pages. The romance dives far beneath just a physical act between two people. It delivers on a look, a touch, a simple moment that weighs heavy without even a single word being said. My love for romance in fiction soured in this novel, taking flight on a journey I had yet to embark on, but so thankful I did.
Katsa is a strong, independent young woman who can literally kill with her bare hands. She holds very few close to heart, but when she does, she protects them at all costs. An unexpected mission lands her in the company of a young man named Po, someone who possesses unusual qualities that draws Katsa in and causes her to question the path she was so deliberate on following. Their journey together not only brings them closer to answers they seek among the kingdoms, it also forms a bond between them that will be tested time and time again.
Overall this novel carried forth with a strong, yet constant flow. When things began to heighten, it definitely left me with an uneasy feeling, causing me to flip the pages, eagerly anticipating what was to come next. As the story met its highest peak, I had to take a moment to allow my heart to catch up, and take in what the story was slamming right back at me. I enjoyed this novel for many reasons, but I think it was the unexpected beauty that presented itself in the end. Looking back on Katsa's character from the very beginning and how far she'd come, both physically and emotionally, astounded me.
GRACELING is a true example of how someone who mostly reads contemporary fiction can learn to appreciate, and even fall in love with, a different genre. For those who have raved about this book, I understand your sentiments and completely agree with them. For those on the fence about venturing into YA fantasy territory, I highly recommend beginning your journey here. You'll take one step, and never look back.