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…(synopsis from Goodreads)
I had fun with this book while I was reading it. However, the lower score comes because after I was done with it, I realized certain glaring issues with this book that I just couldn’t get past.
First of all is the idea of Gracelings. Even though Gracelings and the main characters’ individual Graces play a huge part in this book, it’s never explained where these Graces come from. Some people just have them (all of them varying in helpfulness and strength) and you’re just supposed to accept this. While I was not expecting some in depth explanation of this, I was wanting something. Like maybe an explanation based on religious beliefs, or maybe some sort of folklore that people use to explain these powers. Alas, there was nothing.
In fact, this world seemed completely devoid of anything that makes new worlds interesting. There was not folklore, no religion as far as the reader could see, and no exploration of the cultural differences between kingdoms. There were a couple of cultural things that are touched on, like how Lienid actually likes Gracelings unlike the other kingdoms, but as far as the actual people go, there wasn’t much to distinguish them. No accents, no description of what they look like, nothing. I felt a little robbed since I wanted to know more about these places and people rather than the flora and fauna that the characters see on their travels. (There is a lot of this, and it drove me nuts.)
On top of this, I couldn’t like Katsa as much as I wanted to. Her character needed more delving into, and while I could tell that there was some really interesting baggage and motivations behind her actions none of these were actually touched upon which made her feel a little flat. There was also a rather feminist theme surrounding Katsa that I would have loved to see more fleshed out. I can appreciate what she was trying to do with this theme, but I felt that it fell a little short and could have been expanded to become more impactful for the reader. Especially for the younger audience that it is written for.
The dialogue was sometimes on the iffy side. While some of the dialogue was really realistic, there were times when I rolled my eyes cause I just couldn’t see these characters, let alone anyone, talk that way. For this reason, there is a particular scene that is really disappointing since I was anticipating for it to happen, and then when it happened the whole dialogue was just so melodramatic and uncharacteristic that it totally ruined the scene.
Also, the pacing of the plot was very up and down, with some sections that were fun and fast-paced, and others that seemed to drag on forever. That and the main plot of the book doesn’t really come into play until about halfway through, which really annoyed me. It almost felt like a secondary plot when it really should have been brought in closer to the beginning of the book rather than just setting up for this big reveal and then taking forever to do anything about it. I think more time is actually spent on the characters traveling than actual action. Hence the slow parts.
This book had so much potential to be awesome but then kind of dropped the ball. Don’t get me wrong, this book was not horrible. I actually enjoyed it for a little while, but it really doesn’t stand up to any close inspection which I can’t really help but give. However, if you’re just looking for something fun to read really quickly, this book goes by fast and is good enough to hold your attention until the end. Just don’t think about it too hard.