Booknotes: Graceling

Back in October, I had a very enthusiastic bookseller at Curious George Books in Harvard Square put a copy of Graceling, a debut fantasy novel by Kristin Cashore. She had seen me fondling a copy of Inkdeath and correctly presumed I'd be interested in expanding my young adult fantasy repertoire.

Of course, graduate school happened, and I never got around to reading it. Until this weekend, when I finally picked up a copy at the BPL and sat down to enjoy the luxury of reading a novel somewhere other than my morning commute.

It wasn't a startlingly good read -- I feel more deeply and instantly in love with, for example, Wicked Lovely and War for the Oaks than I did with Graceling -- but I enjoyed it very much as a weekend read. In the spirit of Tamora Pierce's Alanna adventures, Graceling is the story of a young noblewoman, Katsa, who is born "graced" with a particular talent and trained by her uncle, the king, as an assassin. When on a mission for her uncle, Katsa stumbles into another graceling, a young man named Po, from a rival kingdom, who challenges her re-imagine her future out from under the will of her tyrannical uncle. Soon, Po and Katsa are off on a quest to rescue one of Po's relatives, a child named Bitterblue, from her father whose penchant for torture and particular grace for mind-manipulation makes him a formidable enemy. On the whole, Cashore maintains the delicate line of telling a story about a "strong female protagonist" without subsuming the story itself, and the particular characters she has created, beneath that aim. If you're looking for fun fantasy reading for a summer afternoon, put this on your list -- and enjoy the fact that the epilogue has "sequel" written all over it.

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