Graceling

“It was a land of seven kingdoms. seven kingdoms, and seven thoroughly unpredictable kings. Why in the name of all that as reasonable would anyone kidnap Prince Tealiff, the father of the Lienid king? He was an old man. He had no power; he had no ambition; he wasn’t even well. Word was, he spent most of his days sitting by the fire, or in the sun, looking out at the sea, playing with his great-grandchildren, and bothering no one.” (Graceling by Kristin Cashore.)

Cover of Graceling by Kristin CashoreHaving worked in a children’s bookstore as long as I did, I have heard at least something about most children’s/YA books. When I picked up Graceling, I was looking for a piece of vapid YA fiction and, based on the mixed reviews, was sure this book was going to deliver. I expected to cringe at the sentence construction and huff at the muddled theme, but have the inconveniences compensated for by a fast-paced, action-driven plot. After having finished the book, however, I find myself wondering what on earth my coworkers could have been thinking when they steered me in another direction.

Kristin Cashore’s Graceling is as elegant and simple a story as any I have ever read – more akin in style to the most loveable of children’s books than to your run-of-the-mill YA thriller. Kristin’s book has a gentle focus about it that allows her tell her story from beginning to end without any muddle-headedness or confusion. This is not to say that the book is uncomplicated or childish (please don’t give it to your 10 year old), but rather that it does not commit the crime that so many YA books do today – it doesn’t dig itself into a storytelling hole and then wade out of it with the blunt pick-axe of a hastily constructed action scene. Kristin also, admirably, gives the story time to close itself; instead of ending with the death of the bad guy, she allows the reader to observe the characters as they resolve their internal conflicts before the book draws to a close. I almost feel ashamed at ever having expected so little of this book: altogether a beautiful and highly recommended weekend read.

Does not remind me of… The Hunger Games Trilogy, which commits all the modern storytelling offences I allude to and more. I truly do not understand how people could love those books and overlook this one.

Beverage: A cup of jasmine tea.

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3 thoughts on “Graceling

  1. I have thought about reading this book many times now, but it seems for every good thing I read about it I then read something bad. It seems to be a book that polarizes peoples views. I’ll have to give it a try eventually, though, if I want to see if it is any good.

    • I definitely agree that “Graceling” is a book that polarizes people’s views. I also have read very mixed reviews – as I think that I pointed out in my post. The only explanation that I can come up with for this phenomenon is that ‘Graceling’ is not your run-of-the-mill YA book, it does not conform to the standards that people have come to expect from the genre: the plot is relatively slow, it doesn’t piggy-back on the vampire/werewolf/wizard wagon, and the main character is fully fledged in a way that makes some people cringe. I would recommend this book if you are looking for something a bit different, if you love the pacing older literature, and if you actually know what a feminist is (the most confusing negative reviews called the main character an anti-feminist… the only explanation for that one is that they just don’t know what the word means). Give it a try!

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