Review: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore

Title:  Graceling
Author:  Kristin Cashore
Series:  Graceling Realm #1
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date:  October 1, 2008
Pages:  471
Format/Source:  Hardback/Purchased
Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Fantasy

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 . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more. (From Goodreads)

My First “Random Read”…

A couple of the girls in my book club really love this series so I’ve had Graceling on my TBR list for a long time.  I bought it not too long ago, and then in June I decided to participate in Random Reads (Random Reads is a monthly meme, hosted by I’m Loving Books, where bloggers use a random number generator to find a random book to read for the month), and Graceling was my random pick!

A Must-Read If You Like Fantasy…

I haven’t read too much High Fantasy, but what I have read, I’ve really enjoyed, and Graceling is no exception!  I was immediately enthralled by the idea of certain people being born with Graces, or special skills, and I loved how Cashore took it to the next level by having a female protagonist whose Grace was killing, yet she hates to kill and has created a whole secret council to fight the injustice in the world.  It’s really kind of Robin Hood-esque, and that premise reminds me a lot of the show Leverage.

As if that premise wasn’t enough to make a compelling story on its own, Cashore throws in extremely complex characters as well as a mystery that the characters have to solve.  And it’s not an easy one for readers to solve, which is really refreshing!  A lot of the time when I’m reading a book, I have certain parts figured out way before they happen, and sometimes this can be annoying, but if the book is still written well it doesn’t bother me too much. But I didn’t have any problems with that in Graceling, because for most of the book I could tell that there was something big going on with the whole mystery, but Cashore would only reveal a tiny tidbit at a time, which made it that much more suspenseful, and also made it really hard for readers to make any type of guess as to what was going to happen.

And the characters were great.  Katsa is strong and willful, but she’s not perfect and she definitely grows a lot in the story.  Po is intriguing and has a very interesting back story.  And Raffin is fun and was definitely one of my favorite characters!  Even Po’s family members, like his mother, father, and brother, Skye, were complex and therefore fun to read about.

Cashore is also just an excellent writer.  She takes seemingly mundane events and words them in such a way that just makes them so fresh.  For instance, instead of saying, “Autumn is coming” or something like that, she says:  “The days were beginning to shorten.  The air would crispen soon, and the castle would smell of wood burning in the fireplaces.  The leaves would crackle under her horse’s hooves when she went riding.”

Here are a few more of my favorite quotes:

“When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster?  Did it become something else?”

“Late in the morning, the skies began to drip.”

“Or even better, wait until all your children are older and give my name to whichever is the most troublesome and obstinate.”

My rating for Graceling by Kristin Cashore:

Actually 4 1/2 stars.  The characters were entertaining and complex, the plot was fast and full of suspense, and I was automatically hooked at the premise of the Graces.  I can’t wait to read Fire and Bitterblue, the other books set in this world.
You may also enjoy:  FinderAlanna: The First Adventure
Disclaimer:  I purchased this book myself.  I was not compensated in any way for this review.


  1. Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

    July 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I loved this book, and I'm not such a huge fan of fantasy. I brought Bitterblue to read with me on vacation and hope to get to it soon.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      You know, I don't really consider myself to be a huge fan of fantasy, either, but I really love all the fantasy that I've read! I really want to read Fire and Bitterblue!

  2. Jac

    July 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I absolutely need to read this one – I'm not sure why I haven't. I have this hangup with Fantasy – I think I don't like it. But then, every fantasy book I've read? I've loved.

    Thanks for the great review :)

    -Jac @ For Love and Books

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      I think I have that exact same hangup as you do! I kinda cringe when I see High Fantasy books, but then I read them because my friends loved them, and I end up loving them, too! You should totally read Graceling!

  3. Katja Weinert

    July 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I love the quotes you chose, she really does have a way with words. Glad you loved it, so did I – loved Bitterblue even more!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      I can't wait to read Fire and Bitterblue!

  4. Kate@Midnight Book Girl

    July 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Amazing review, Andrea! I actually loved Fire more than Graceling, but I'm still eager to read Bitterblue (hopefully this month) which is more in the vein of Graceling. Cashore is definitely becoming one of my favorite authors.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      Aww, thanks, Kate! I think some of my book club friends liked Fire more than Graceling, as well. I can't wait to read Fire and Bitterblue!

  5. pagesunbound

    July 9, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    I very recently read Graceling and I loved it! I'm hoping to begin Fire this week. I honestly think one of the reasons I've been avoiding this series is that the covers don't say much. There's a sword on Graceling; this could be an appropriate cover for just about any fantasy…. And I never looked closely enough to notice the eyes, which are probably the most intriguing part.

    I also thought the book was very quotable, which I mentioned in my review (scheduled a long time from now, maybe October). It has a unique voice, too! I love how she could write things like "And she noticed this, and this was okay," (not a real quote obviously), and it actually sounded good!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      I'm with you on the cover. I actually don't much love the covers for these books (**hangs head in shame**). I do like the eyes in the sword but other than that, they don't do much for me, and you're right – they really don't say much about the book.

      And yes, she is a great writer, isn't she? Lots of great quotes!

    2. pagesunbound

      July 12, 2012 at 3:39 am

      I just finished Fire. I did not love it as much as Graceling. I thought there was too much random sex going on, and I has some issues with Fire herself. The world-building and romance were still great, though, and Fire had a unique voice. She didn't sound like Katsa! I think Bitterblue is closer to being like Graceling, though, so I am still really excited about reading it.

    3. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      Hmm, random sex sounds like something I'd be confused about, especially in this series. I'm still ready to read it, and I've heard some great things about Bitterblue as well.

  6. fakesteph

    July 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I've had this on my shelf since it came out and I think I'm actually going to have to get to it soon. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 11, 2012 at 12:55 am

      Yeah, you should definitely check it out!

  7. LHughes

    July 13, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I love how you pull quotes for your reviews! I used to do that more when I was reading off my Kindle. I have this thing about marking in books. And lately I've been buying more books at indie stores instead of on my Kindle…

    But your quotes reminded me of what a fabulous writer Cashore is! I want to reread Graceling before I read Bitterblue (which I had autographed when I met Cashore two months ago). The plot is fuzzy to me now. But I just remember loving the idea of graces, and the two different colored eyes, and PO. I LOVE PO! I remember thinking the mystery was intriguing as well.

    I really, really enjoyed Fire because there was a plot twist/reveal that I wasn't expecting.

    Great review! Made me want to go back to the world of Katsa!

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 14, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Thanks, Lauren!!

      I don't like to mark in my books either! I started taking notes in a spiral notebook when reading books for my book club, so that I would remember things that I wanted to talk to them about. So when I started this blog, I started a new notebook for all the other books that I read. I write down any thoughts I'm having about the book, as well as quotes that I really love. That way when I write my review, it's all right there and I don't have to look much up. It's made reviewing a lot easier for me!

      That's so awesome that you got Bitterblue signed, especially since you have that special connection with the author!

      I'm really looking forward to reading Fire and Bitterblue!

  8. Bengal Reads

    July 17, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Love this review Andrea! I have checked this book out from the Library before but never got around to reading it! I hope to soon… from the looks of your review I need to move it up on my TBR!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 18, 2012 at 3:08 am

      Thanks, Kayla! Yeah, you should definitely give it a try, especially if you love High Fantasy!

  9. Bittner

    July 20, 2012 at 3:05 am

    I really am glad that you liked this one but it just doesn't sound like me. I mean I like the idea of people having certain "graces" but…I don't know…you know me, I like my contemporaries! But the cover is gorgeous!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      I think you might like it. You liked Finder, right? Maybe you should give it a try someday. You could borrow my copy if you want!

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