Bess’ Book Recs: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I’m rereading these excellent books because I’m in love with Katsa I realized that I have to tell more people about them, because Kevin is tired of hearing me gush every time I pick them up.

Things I love about Graceling (and its sequels. It’s a trilogy and my appreciation is going to get fuzzy, so bear with me.), in no particular order:

  1. Katsa is Graced with violence and strength. Graces are supernatural gifts, and they’re different for each person. Katsa is strong and fast and deadly. But not in a graceful way. She’s messy and wild and snaps necks. That’s fairly uncommon in a book, that a woman character is allowed to be entirely unfeminine.
  2. She has the emotional intelligence of a spoon. (Thank you, Hermione.) She’s oblivious to her friend’s intentions, to how relationships work, even to what’s going on in her own mind. She learns, a bit, over the course of the book and it’s wonderful. She’s not magically better, there’s no “aha!” moment, just slow and painful learning.
  3. The love interest, a man, is extremely emotionally intelligent. He’s compassionate, understanding, and not as strong as her. Yeah, Katsa kicks his butt all the time. And when was the last time where the male character did the lion’s share of the emotional labor?
  4. Katsa’s journey is a lot like Captain Marvel. She’s always been the strongest person in the room, but it took leaving an abusive relationship to fully realize it. (Like I said on Twitter, if you like Captain Marvel, you should check out Katsa.)
  5. Katsa doesn’t want kids and gets to ensure that she’ll never have to worry about it. This one won’t be as important to other people, but to someone who is childfree and grew up with JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins and, heck, even Tamora Pierce (whom I love and will fight for in all forums) telling me that children were mandatory for you to have a happily ever after. Being told there are other, equally valid paths to happily ever after gives me warm fuzzies every time I read it.
  6. The writing is excellent. I have a very clear memory of, when I figured out something before Katsa, flying out of my library to scare the stuffing out of Kevin by yelling at him about it while bouncing around the living room. All the characters are so vibrant and believable and the plot so strong that it’ll boggle your mind.

The absolute cherry on top of this wonderful book is that the sequel, Fire, upholds the traditions of all the above points. (I assume the third one, Bitterblue, does as well, but I only just started my reread.) Everything I loved about the first one? I got more of it! That’s magic. I want to be like Kristin Cashore when I become a grown up writer.

Do you love Graceling? What Grace would you want to have? Who’s your favorite protagonist in the series? Let me know!

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