Review of Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Review of Graceling by Kristin CashoreGraceling by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Also by this author: Graceling (Graphic Novel)
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2009
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Girls & Women, Young Adult
Pages: 471
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

Kristin Cashore’s best-selling, award-winning fantasyGracelingtells the story of the vulnerable yet strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace . . . and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.   Awards: Winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature, winner of the SIBA Book Award/YA, Indies Choice Book Award Honor Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, 2008 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year,’s Best Books of 2008, 2008 Booklist Editors’ Choice, Booklist’s 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth, 2009 Amelia Bloomer List, BCCB 2009 Blue Ribbon List   Don’t miss the sequelFire, also a New York Times bestseller and ALA Best Book for Young Adults, winner of the 2010 Cybil for YA Fantasy/Sci Fi and the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore exudes awesome. It just pours off of each and every single page. In the world within Graceling there are seven kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms are ruled by royalty. Within this world certain people are graced. Being graced means you are exceptionally talented at something. Katsa, the main character, is graced as an assassin. She’s essentially a BAMF. (see Dane Cook for explanation)

Prevalent throughout Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a feminist undertone. Certain gender paradigms are subverted,for example marriage is not a requirement within Graceling. Women are portrayed as being just as strong as men. Men are allowed to cry. I love that Cashore stayed true to her theme/message and didn’t give-in to societal expectations, especially in the ending of the book.

As far as characters go, I really loved seeing the evolution of Katsa. We start off with a practically feral female — with a conscience, then she sort of matures and there’s some reveals. I loved Katsa’s relationship with her cousin Raffin, who’s heir to the throne, and a part-time medicine maker. I also OMG fell in love with Po, despite being thrown off by the teletubby name. Po’s swoon worthy and quite well-developed. Also the interplay between Katsa and her Uncle Randa is awesome and parts are fairly reminiscent of Labyrinth when  Sarah tells Jareth off.

The writing by Kristin Cashore is fairly simple. Not too much time is spent worldbuilding, rather you are just thrown into Katsa’s world and trusted to navigate without having everything explained to you. The tone reminded me of something I would read in a book of fairy tales. It was enchanting. I was completely mesmerized by this world, by the intrigue, the self-revelations, the messages, the characters.

There were certain quotes within Graceling that spoke to me.

“Who were they to take her fight away from her and turn it into some understanding between themselves? He should’ve taken more care of her face? She would knock his nose from his face. She would thump them both, and she would apologize to neither.” – pg. 90

I love the above quote, because it reinforces how strong Katsa is. It shows she’s not going to let some men treat her as an object, but rather as a person. I like that she wants to fight her own battles and if someone is going to fight over her looks, it should be her and not some male protector.

“How absurd was it that in all seven kingdoms, the weakest and most vulnerable of people -girls, women- went unarmed and were taught nothing of fighting, while the strong were trained to the highest reaches of their skill.” – pg. 398

To me this says if you are weak, there are things you can do to tip the scales in your favor. You can train, you can learn. If you think of yourself as defenseless and don’t do anything to help yourself, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I totally think this can be applied to real life, how if you are weak in a certain area, not just physical, but idk, cooking, then you should learn and be taught how to do whatever you need to learn to do to make yourself a stronger/better person. Now, I don’t see this quote as saying all women are weak, just women don’t need a male protector, they can help themselves. I find that to be incredibly uplifting.

While reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore, you should drink something empowering. I know when I think of empowering drinks, the first thing that comes to my mind is Powerade. Especially Artic Shatter, I drink this whenever I need some sweet, sweet electrolytes after a crazy workout.

Other reviews of Graceling by Kristin Cashore:

WORD For Teens
Booking Through 365
The Sordid Domain of Random Inspiration
Reading Cause I’m Addicted
Books Not Bombs
Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
Yay! Reads
My Tea Time Is Book Time
That Chick That Reads

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Angela Craft says

    I really need to get myself a copy of Graceling. I read it back when it first came out and really liked it, though I wasn't absolutely head over heels in love with it. I bought a signed copy for my friend but figured I didn't need my own. But this is the second review of Graceling I've read *today* and it's got me in the mood!

  2. This sounds like a pretty good book. Except that "you are just thrown into Katsa's world and trusted to navigate without having everything explained to you." I like a well-developed fantasy world. I should read this.

    "Ship of Destiny" was an amazing fantasy book that I read that also had a feminine slant. The world was also quite developed. Additionally, "Lost in a Sea of Time" is an awesome book.

  3. This is a book I keep telling myself I am going to read soon, but I just haven't gotten it yet. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Fantastic review! I am so glad you liked it!

  5. I seriously need to read this book! It has been listed in my wish list for god knows how long. The review was fantastic and making me more eager to read the book myself =) Are you going to read "Fire" next??

  6. I didn't even think of teletubbies! You're SO RIGHT.

  7. I already know I want this, but commenting anyway. What a great review and I love the quotes you've picked – seen the second one everywhere, but the first is new to me and I really like the sentiment.

  8. omgg i lovedd this book and im looking forward to fire! i am SO in love of po, i mean he is so nice with katsa and i imagine him so hott!

  9. I loved Graceling. It’s one of the best YA fantasies out there.

  10. Graceling is fantastic, and you definitely picked out many of my favorite parts. I was a little thrown by Po’s name, too, but better Po than his “real” name, Greening – which throws me even more. I also love how the characters in Graceling are such real personalitities. The reader gets such an insight into who they are, especially Katsa. I never felt taken out of the story by an out-of-character decision or bit of dialogue. Yay for Kristin Cashore!

  11. Haha, no, I won’t drink powerade. But I like the suggestion! 🙂
    Liked the quotes you picked!

  12. Ha ha! I love that you thought of Teletubbies when you thought of Po’s name. And, I also fell in love with Po. He’s one of my favorite fictional hotties!

  13. Oh yay, I didn’t even have a blog when you wrote this.

    “I also OMG fell in love with Po” –> YES. I love him. Great character. Really, this book is full of great characters. And I agree with your worldbuilding statement, how we’re just thrown into the world and have to navigate it. But it works and it doesn’t feel all weird and tipsy and stuff.

    I just pulled this off of my shelf yesterday and took a good long look at the cover again, the map inside, etc. I really want to read Graceling and Fire both again before I read Bitterblue. It’s just been too long since I’ve been in Kristin Cashore’s world. Great thoughts, though, because they make me want to sling everything off of my desk and just gently place Graceling on it and start reading.

  14. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought Po’s name was a tad…juvenile. Yea, definitely made me think of Teletubbies.

  15. I loved Graceling so much! It was absolutely one of my favorite discoveries of 2011. The characters were great, the story was fantastic, and I loved the feminism behind everything. The second quote you shared was one of my favorites in the entire book.

  16. Glad you enjoyed it! I had such a great time diving into this world. It was so utterly unique. The world building was just phenomenal.

  17. This book looks so awsome ! Especially now that I know that the female lead character is strong (and not weak as a certain Bella)

  18. Ohh, amazing review. I adored Graceling. It is one of my favorite books. Agree with you 🙂 I loved the writing; it is simply stunning. And Po is my favorite character 😀 Also really liked for strong Katsa was. Loved how they were together. Also! Loving the quotes 🙂

  19. Thank you for such a great review! Grrr… I *need* this book 🙂

  20. Rebecca Hipworth says

    This sounds good 🙂

  21. Katsa’s is one of my favorite female characters. I love that she is so smart, strong, and determined. Wonderful review!

  22. I’m so excited to read this book!

  23. Excellent review, I really wanna give this series a read!

  24. Jennifer Vu says

    Great review! I’m glad to see you enjoyed it just as much- if not more- as I did!
    Haha, teletubby name (Po). I did not like his name at first either, but it grew on me!

  25. “I totally think this can be applied to real life, how if you are weak in a certain area, not just physical, but idk, cooking, then you should learn and be taught how to do whatever you need to learn to do to make yourself a stronger/better person.”

    I’ve learned that I can do anything if I tried harder 🙂

    Katsa’s awesome and so are we

  26. I love Graceling so much! It was one of my best reads last 2010. Prince Greening Grandemalion was one of the most unique names I’ve ever read and he was indeed swoon-worthy! Great review! 🙂

  27. Love your review! I absolutely LOVE Graceling! It’s definitely my favourite book in the series, hands down. Katsa is such a strong and likable character. I was sad when the book ended!

  28. This is one of my all-time favorite fantasy series. I’m so glad you loved it! Great review 🙂

  29. As soon as I read this, I had to go out and by a hard copy. IT WAS SO FREAKING GOOD. I haven’t read Fire yet, but I really want to read it! Great review. And I love what you said about drinking something empowering. It’s so true.

  30. She would thump them both, and she would apologize to neither.

    Love that bit! Graceling is one of my favorite books and I’m glad that you enjoyed reading it as well. I’m in the middle of Bitterblue now and I like seeing familiar characters in it – Po, Katsa, Raffin, Bann and Giddon.

  31. Genevieve says

    I LOVED this book! A bookstore clerk randomly recommended it to me shortly after it came out in ’08. It took me an age to get through the first 100 or so pages b/c I kept putting it down to do other things. Once I got through those pages, I read the rest in one sitting. I’ve recommended it to lots of people!

  32. Cris Evert says

    I read this a couple of years ago, and I love how kick-ass Katsa is. 🙂 I love her chemistry with Po, but I got sad in the end. I looked forward to reading Fire after this!

  33. stacie puett says

    i love that there is such a great book with so much girl power.

  34. I’ve already got my copy, but I’m waiting to get the other two books, as I’d like to read them all at once (I hate waiting).

  35. Ever since I saw this in the store a few years ago, I’ve been wanting to read it! Thanks for sharing, I hope I get to it soon!


  36. Christine says

    Looks like a really awesome book, I really should get my own copy :)) Thanks for the review 🙂

  37. This sounds epic! I’ve been meaning to give it a go for a while now and hopefully I shall make time and start the series very soon! Great review, glad you loved it!

  38. Noely Jeleen says

    Really looking forward to reading Graceling!
    I mean, with everything I’ve heard and read about it, especially about Katsa, it would be nice to really get to know her and her world. And the only way to do that is to read her story. 😀
    Anyway, I love how you explained why you love those given quotes above. 🙂

  39. great review, i can’t wait to read this book:)

  40. Catherine S. says

    I haven’t read Graceling, but the book sounds awesome! I really love how Katsa is a kick-ass heroin, her world is very unique. Great review! Now I’m rooting for Graceling!

  41. I only picked up Graceling once I saw Bitterblue getting a ton of buzz. I somehow missed it before then. But Katsa is amazing. I also loved how she never gives in to society’s pressures of what she is “supposed” to do.

  42. Great review April! I finished reading Graceling for the first time a few weeks ago. Loved your comment about loving Po “despite being thrown off by the teletubby name” haha! Raffin was a great character, wasn’t he? I hope we get to see him again. I can’t wait to read Fire and Bitterblue (especially Bitterblue!)

  43. Seems like such a cool book

  44. I like the quotes! You’ve got me at the word fairytale in your review. It’s in my TBR now and I’m looking forward to reading it.

  45. I feel like everybody has read it now but me. *shakes fist at empty wallet*

  46. Stephanie27 says

    I adore this series. Katsa is just amazing. I am so glad you liked it too!


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