GRACELING, by Kristin Cashore

Hello swoonies!

As you know, Alison did a Swoony Boy Alert on Prince Po from Graceling not too long ago. I was totally convinced by her post (and by the enthusiasm from Leiah) to finally read Graceling.

Oh wow.

I don’t need to do a full-blown review here – we’ve already pimped this book on the site – but there were a couple of things that have just completely stuck with me since finishing it last night and I have to unload my love here. For anyone out there who is on the fence about whether to read this book, honestly, it has been added to my favorites pile forever and ever.

It’s true that Po is seriously swoony. And, believe me, there were lines in the book that Alison could have included but didn’t because she didn’t want to spoil the impact. He sees Katsa for who she is at her best, worships her strength, and actually loves that she’ll always beat him in a fight. Po is a wonderful feminist.

But we’ve raved about Po here already, and honestly, Katsa is just as wonderful. She is the epitome of badass: a fighter, underground hero, self-sufficient to a degree that is FANTASTIC, and although she’s a bit abrasive (“a bit” – haha!) she knows she is. Over the course of the book, the reader sees Katsa’s transformation from stoic, no-nonsense, impatient and emotionally stunted, to nurturing, fiercely loyal, and sometimes even vulnerable. This doesn’t mean that she “became more womanly” over the course of the book. She could still kill anybody in the kingdoms, still didn’t have a single need for primping or fanfare. She didn’t lose even an OUNCE of her fire, she simply learned to let others in. I love that she never wants to marry. I love that she is baffled and angered that kingdoms don’t train their girls to fight. I love that she is clear on who she is, who she never wants to be, and can see when she needs to take blame for something. Katsa may be my most favorite warrior heroine, ever.

I can’t wait for my kids to read this book.

The thing I can’t stop thinking about is how this book doesn’t end where you expect it to. The middle of the book had me so stressed and on edge, I flailed all over the place. But, when one of the critical climaxes resolved far before the end of the book, I had no idea what the remaining pages would be about. Don’t get me wrong, I could happily live in this fictional world for several more books. But what happens at the end is something that Cashore set up so subtly, so perfectly, the ending of Graceling is one of my favorite endings of any book ever.

I’ve heard that Fire isn’t about Katsa and Po, or even any of the characters in Graceling (save one). I’m actually okay with that – Cashore gave us such a strong ending that I feel completely sated. That so rarely happens. Books seem lately to all end on the first few pages after the climax, and although it’s an exhilarating ending, it’s also hard to feel closure. Does that make sense? In any case, Graceling was one of the most satisfying reads I’ve had in a very long time. I’m just smitten. On to Fire! And, coming May 1, 2012 – Bitterblue!

About the Author: Kristin Cashore wrote the New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire, both of which have been named ALA Best Books for Young Adults. Graceling is the winner of the 2009 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and Fire is the winner of Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. The books are world travelers, currently scheduled to be published in thirty languages.  WebsiteGoodreads

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