Graceling (Graceling Realm Series #1)

Graceling (Graceling Realm Series #1)

4.5 1860
by Kristin Cashore
     
 

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Kristin Cashore’s best-selling, award-winning fantasy Graceling tells 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

Overview

Kristin Cashore’s best-selling, award-winning fantasy Graceling tells 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, Amazon.com’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 sequel Fire, 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.

Editorial Reviews

Katie Roiphe
In the course of her dark and eventful tale, Cashore plays with the idea of awkwardness, how at a certain age gifts and talents are burdens, how they make it impossible to feel comfortable in the world. And in this she writes a fairly realistic portrait of teenage life into the baroque courts of her outlandish kingdoms…In many respects Graceling is a study of mysterious angers: it offers a perfect parable of adolescence, as its characters struggle with turbulent emotions they must learn to control. The consequences are more tangible than they usually are in more mundane settings—if Katsa loses control, she breaks someone's jaw by accident—but the principle is the same. The teenage characters in this novel, like some we may know in life, grow into their graces. They realize that their monstrous individuality is not so monstrous after all.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In a land of seven kingdoms, people with special talents, called Gracelings, are identified by their eyes-Katsa's are green and blue, one of each-although she's eight before her specific Grace is identified as a talent for killing. (While in the court of her uncle, King Randa, she swiped at a man attempting to grope her and struck him dead.) By 18 she's King Randa's henchwoman, dispatched to knock heads and lop off appendages when subjects disobey, but she hates the job. As an antidote, she leads a secret council whose members work against corrupt power, and in this role, while rescuing a kidnapped royal, she meets the silver-and-gold-eyed Po, the Graced seventh son of the Lienid king. That these two are destined to be lovers is obvious, though beautiful, defiant Katsa convincingly claims no man will control her. Their exquisitely drawn romance (the sex is offstage) will slake the thirst of Twilight fans, but one measure of this novel's achievements lies in its broad appeal. Tamora Pierce fans will embrace the take-charge heroine; there's also enough political intrigue to recommend it to readers of Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia trilogy. And while adult readers, too, will enjoy the author's originality, the writing is perfectly pitched at teens struggling to put their own talents to good use. With this riveting debut, Cashore has set the bar exceedingly high. Ages 14-up. (Oct.)

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Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Katsa is a killer. The eighteen-year-old heroine of Kristin Cashore's Seven Kingdoms fights better than Bruce Lee on speed and always gets her man. That is the problem. Kat is weary of doing the dirty work of her uncle, King Randas. She is beginning to question her special grace, specifically the heightened power of fighting that came with her separate-colored eyes. Meeting Prince Po, a near-equal in the lethal arts, creates other questions for the young lady. As she and Po set off on a quest to discover why Po's kindly grandfather was kidnapped, the plot thickens into romance. Cashore's first novel contains all the requirements of fantasy: a world stuck in the medieval mode of swords and long-suffering peasants, a touch of magic, and non-stop action. But once she's gotten her moral priorities sorted out, Katsas real problem is not surviving impossible odds. For her, that's a bagatelle. Much harder is admitting her femininity and recognizing that love can have a place in her life. Still, it is fun watching Cashore's wonder woman single-handedly slay mountain lions and conquer impassable winter mountain passes in the course of rescuing the young queen of a rogue kingdom. It's fun watching her get her man, too. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
KLIATT - Deirdre Root
This stunning debut novel introduces a world in which certain individuals are born with supernatural abilities, or Graces. Some are benign, but Katsa's is for killing, making her feared by the populace while the king uses her to enforce his will. She revolts by organizing a secret society whose members right wrongs throughout the seven Kingdoms. When Katsa rescues an elderly prince from an inexplicable kidnapping, she and her Council, along with a brave little princess and a handsome prince with the Grace of mind-reading, will take on a seemingly kind and charming king—one with the most dangerous Grace of all. Readers will cheer for this plucky heroine and her loyal friends. For all collections. Reviewer: Deirdre Root
VOYA - Kathleen Beck
Lady Katsa of Middluns and Prince Po of Lienid are both Gracelings, born with a special gift. Since age eight, Katsa has unwillingly served her uncle, King Randa, as his enforcer, because of her terrible ability to maim or kill barehanded. Accidentally meeting when Katsa undertakes a mission for the secret Council, Po and Katsa realize that there is something desperately wrong in the Seven Kingdoms, an evil somehow centered in the universally admired King Leck of Monsea. When Leck turns his attentions to his own daughter, Bitterblue, Katsa and Po recognize the truth: Leck too is Graced, with the ability to deceive, and his benevolence masks a horror that threatens not only the child but also the Kingdoms. Po and Katsa are complex, appealing characters. Growing into her gift, Katsa realizes her true Grace is not killing but survival. Po's intense awareness of those around him threatens Katsa's fierce need for independence, especially as they become lovers. When Katsa must leave a gravely injured Po behind to spirit Bitterblue to safety, she finds that to save them will require both independence and commitment. Cashore juggles her complicated plot with dexterity rivaling Katsa's. There are some undeveloped spots: The Council, an underground resistance group, never assumes its implied importance, and the ending is prolonged. But Cashore writes with an assurance that captures the reader. Female readers will appreciate Po's willingness to take Katsa on her own terms. Intrigue, death, love, a little sex, and pitched battles create a sure winner for mature fantasy fans. Reviewer: Kathleen Beck
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Certain people in Katsa's world are born with a particular Grace—a superhuman skill—and are identified by having two different colored eyes in Kristin Cashore's debut novel (Harcourt, 2008). Katsa has a Grace for killing. She has been used by her uncle, King Randa, as an enforcer to punish his enemies, and she finally rebels against his wishes. She escapes with Prince Po, a Graceling from an adjoining kingdom, and they use their talents to protect the princess of another realm from her father—a Graceling with the most dangerous power they have ever encountered. This excellently performed full-cast production features Chelsea Mixon as Lady Katsa, who starts out with little emotion, but becomes more animated as Katsa breaks away from her uncle's control and becomes her own person. Others in the cast, especially Zachary Exton as Prince Po and Tim Green as King Leck, are wonderful at bringing the characters to life. This fantasy/romance is a first purchase for libraries with YA audiobook collections.—Suanne Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
Kirkus Reviews
An assured fantasy debut grapples with questions of identity, authenticity and autonomy. Lady Katsa is a Graceling, with an inborn magical gift marking her as both feared outcast and exploitable resource. While her peculiar Grace-the unsurpassed ability to kill-has been honed over the years by her uncle the king to bully and punish, Katsa has also secretly used it to bring a measure of justice to the Seven Kingdoms. When she encounters a strange prince whose mysterious Grace may just be a match for her own, she learns the corrosive seduction of power corrupted, but also the courage to trust others-and herself. Katsa is an ideal adolescent heroine, simultaneously confident of her strengths yet unsure of her place in the world. Every character is crafted with the same meticulous devotion to human comprehensibility, making the villain all the more appalling in his understated, twisted madness. In a tale filled with graphic violence and subtle heartbreak, gentle passion and savage kindness, matter-of-fact heroics and bleak beauty, no defeat is ever total and no triumph comes without cost. Grace-full, in every sense. (Fantasy. YA)First printing of 75,000
From the Publisher

"In this debut fantasy, Cashore treats readers to compelling and eminently likeable characters and a story that draws them in from the first paragraph. . . . This is gorgeous storytelling: exciting, stirring, and accessible. Fantasy and romance readers will be thrilled." --School Library Journal, starred review

"Intrigue, death, love, a little sex, and pitched battles create a sure winner for mature fantasy fans."--VOYA (4Q, 4P)

"With a butt-kicking but emotionally vulnerable heroine, [Graceling] should appeal to fans of recent girl-power urban fantasies, as well as readers who've graduated from Tamora Pierce's Tortall series."--Horn Book

"Cashore strikes a strong balance between adventure, drama and romance--bloody battles and sexual tension co-exist in equal measure--and Katsa's combination of pride in her unique talents and vulnerability in her self-doubts make her a strongly sympathetic character. Readers will identify closely with this young woman, whose coming of age also involves coming to terms with a talent that is both a blessing and a curse."--BookPage, November 2008

"Graceling is the wonderful new book by Kristin Cashore about a girl with grace, but who is no Audrey Hepburn. Katsa's extreme special skill, her ‘grace,’ is that she's able to kill people with her bare hands (ouch). In a world of seven kingdoms, Katsa is certainly considered a bad-ass and is respectably feared. Ultimately though, the graceling ends up being shamelessly used by her own family to fight and torture their enemies... until she meets Po . . . There's been a ton of early praise about this debut novel -- so much so that I think it's safe to say there's an official buzz."--Ypulse

"However, as in every season, a few other titles have risen to the surface as potential hits, based on pre-pub buzz, online chatter and word-of-mouth. We've singled out four for particular notice: three are inventive fantasy novels, and one is a harrowing memoir. Publishers and booksellers alike believe these books have what it takes to cut through the noise of a very full season."--Publishers Weekly online

"The teenage characters in this novel, like those we may know in life, grow into their graces. They realize that their monstrous individuality is not so monstrous afterall."--The New York Times Book Review

"Discovering one's true identity and powers is a common theme in young adult literature, but Kristin Cashore, with compelling characters and an ease in combining genres--fantasy, mystery, adventure, romance--develops this theme with enormous freshness."--Newsday

" 'Graceling' offers a fresh view of the process of learning self-mastery and has a knee-weakening romance that easily rivals that of 'Twilight'."--LA Times

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR Graceling:

“Here’s a WOW of a book! Seeing half-wild Katsa learn humanity as she battles soldiers, storms, and her own obsessive nature—I HAD to know how it ended!” —Tamora Pierce

“Katsa and Po are wonderful: They make me want to cheer. Due to a strong heroine, a supportive hero, political intrigue, and action throughout, this is a book I’ll share with my daughter.” —Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely

“I can’t remember when I last was this impressed by a new fantasy. Kristin Cashore’s voice is fresh and fluent...the end result is a story that you tear through so that you can immediately start again at the beginning and read it with the care it deserves. A truly spectacular novel.” —Susan Hirschman, founder of Greenwillow Books

FROM THE AUTHOR:

“I’ve always been a daydreamer; as a child I always lived far from school, and distinctly remember cherishing the long drive, because it was good daydreaming time. Graceling grew from daydreams I had about a girl with extraordinary fighting powers who loved a boy with whom she was insurmountably incompatible.” —Kristin Cashore

Booklist

«“An impressive first novel, this well crafted and rewarding fantasy will leave readers hoping for more.” Booklist (starred review)

BookPage

"Cashore strikes a strong balance between adventure, drama and romance--bloody battles and sexual tension co-exist in equal measure--and Katsa's combination of pride in her unique talents and vulnerability in her self-doubts make her a strongly sympathetic character. Readers will identify closely with this young woman, whose coming of age also involves coming to terms with a talent that is both a blessing and a curse."--BookPage, November 2008

The Horn Book Magazine

"With a butt-kicking but emotionally vulnerable heroine, [Graceling] should appeal to fans of recent girl-power urban fantasies. . . . "

Melissa Marr

“Katsa and Po are wonderful: They make me want to cheer. Due to a strong heroine, a supportive hero, political intrigue, and action throughout, this is a book I’ll share with my daughter.” —Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely

Catherine Gilbert Murdock

“A brilliant, unforgettable story. I consumed Graceling in one sitting, awed by its originality, breadth, and humanity. For a first novel - for any novel - this book is extraordinary.”

—Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author of Dairy Queen

Susan Hirschman

“I can’t remember when I last was this impressed by a new fantasy. Kristin Cashore’s voice is fresh and fluent. The characters are memorable, the plot filled with surprises—all of which are entirely plausible—and the end result is a story that you tear through so that you can immediately start again at the beginning and read it with the care it deserves. A truly spectacular novel.”

—Susan Hirschman, Founder of Greenwillow Books

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547258300
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/07/2009
Series:
Graceling Realm Series, #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
27,301
Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.28(h) x 1.19(d)
Lexile:
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

IN THESE DUNGEONS the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind. One that had so far proven correct, as Oll’s maps tended to do. Katsa ran her hand along the cold walls and counted doors and passageways as she went. Turning when it was time to turn; stopping finally before an opening that should contain a stairway leading down. She crouched and felt forward with her hands. There was a stone step, damp and slippery with moss, and another one below it. This was Oll’s staircase, then. She only hoped that when he and Giddon followed her with their torches, they would see the moss slime, tread carefully, and not waken the dead by clattering headlong down the steps.

Katsa slunk down the stairway. One left turn and two right turns. She began to hear voices as she entered a corridor where the darkness flickered orange with the light of a torch set in the wall. Across from the torch was another corridor where, according to Oll, anywhere from two to ten guards should be standing watch before a certain cell at the passageway’s end.

These guards were Katsa’s mission. It was for them that she had been sent first.

Katsa crept toward the light and the sound of laughter. She could stop and listen, to get a better sense of how many she would face, but there was no time. She pulled her hood down low and swung around the corner.

She almost tripped over her first four victims, who were sitting on the floor across from each other, their backs against the wall, legs splayed, the air stinking with whatever strong drink they’d brought down here to pass the time of their watch. Katsa kicked and struck at temples and necks, and the four men lay slumped together on the floor before amazement had even registered in their eyes.

There was only one more guard, sitting before the cell bars at the end of the corridor. He scrambled to his feet and slid his sword from its sheath. Katsa walked toward him, certain that the torch at her back hid her face, and particularly her eyes, from his sight. She measured his size, the way he moved, the steadiness of the arm that held the sword toward her.

"Stop there. It’s clear enough what you are." His voice was even. He was brave, this one. He cut the air with his sword, in warning. "You don’t frighten me."

He lunged toward her. She ducked under his blade and whirled her foot out, clipping his temple. He dropped to the ground.

She stepped over him and ran to the bars, squinting into the darkness of the cell. A shape huddled against the back wall, a person too tired or too cold to care about the fighting going on. Arms wrapped around legs, and head tucked between knees. He was shivering—she could hear his breath. She shifted, and the light glanced over his crouched form. His hair was white and cut close to his head. She saw the glimmer of gold in his ear. Oll’s maps had served them well, for this man was a Lienid. He was the one they were looking for.

She pulled on the door latch. Locked. Well, that was no surprise, and it wasn’t her problem. She whistled once, low, like an owl. She stretched the brave guard flat on his back and dropped one of her pills into his mouth. She ran up the corridor, turned the four unfortunates on their backs beside each other, and dropped a pill into each mouth. Just as she was beginning to wonder if Oll and Giddon had lost themselves in the dungeons, they appeared around the corner and slipped past her.

"A quarter hour, no more," she said.

"A quarter hour, My Lady." Oll’s voice was a rumble. "Go safely."

Their torchlight splashed the walls as they approached the cell. The Lienid man moaned and drew his arms in closer. Katsa caught a glimpse of his torn, stained clothing. She heard Giddon’s ring of lock picks clink against itself. She would have liked to have waited to see that they opened the door, but she was needed elsewhere. She tucked her packet of pills into her sleeve and ran.

THE CELL GUARDS reported to the dungeon guard, and the dungeon guard reported to the underguard. The underguard reported to the castle guard. The night guard, the king’s guard, the wall guard, and the garden guard also reported to the castle guard. As soon as one guard noticed another’s absence, the alarm would be raised, and if Katsa and her men weren’t far enough away, all would be lost. They would be pursued, it would come to bloodshed; they would see her eyes, and she would be recognized. So she had to get them all, every guard. Oll had guessed there would be twenty. Prince Raffin had made her thirty pills, just in case.

Most of the guards gave her no trouble. If she could sneak up on them, or if they were crowded in small groups, they never knew what hit them. The castle guard was a bit more complicated, because five guards defended his office. She swirled through the lot of them, kicking and kneeing and hitting, and the castle guard jumped up from his guardhouse desk, burst through the door, and ran into the fray.

"I know a Graceling when I see one." He jabbed with his sword, and she rolled out of the way. "Let me see the colors of your eyes, boy. I’ll cut them out. Don’t think I won’t."

It gave her some pleasure to knock him on the head with the hilt of her knife. She grabbed his hair, dragged him onto his back, and dropped a pill onto his tongue. They would all say, when they woke to their headaches and their shame, that the culprit had been a Graceling boy, Graced with fighting, acting alone. They would assume she was a boy, because in her plain trousers and hood she looked like one, and because when people were attacked it never occurred to anyone that it might have been a girl. And none of them had caught a glimpse of Oll or Giddon: She had seen to that.

No one would think of her. Whatever the Graceling Lady Katsa might be, she was not a criminal who lurked around dark courtyards at midnight, disguised. And besides, she was supposed to be en route east. Her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, had seen her off just that morning, the whole city watching, with Captain Oll and Giddon, Randa’s underlord, escorting her. Only a day of very hard riding in the wrong direction could have brought her south to King Murgon’s court.

Katsa ran through the courtyard, past flower beds, fountains, and marble statues of Murgon. It was quite a pleasant courtyard, really, for such an unpleasant king; it smelled of grass and rich soil, and the sweetness of dew-dripped flowers. She raced through Murgon’s apple orchard, a trail of drugged guards stretching out behind her. Drugged, not dead: an important distinction. Oll and Giddon, and most of the rest of the secret Council, had wanted her to kill them. But at the meeting to plan this mission, she’d argued that killing them would gain no time.

"What if they wake?" Giddon had said.

Prince Raffin had been offended. "You doubt my medicine. They won’t wake."

"It would be faster to kill them," Giddon had said, his brown eyes insistent. Heads in the dark room had nodded.

"I can do it in the time allotted," Katsa had said, and when Giddon had started to protest, she’d held up her hand. "Enough. I won’t kill them. If you want them killed, you can send someone else."

Oll had smiled and clapped the young lord on the back. "Just think, Lord Giddon, it’ll make it more fun for us. The perfect robbery, past all of Murgon’s guards, and nobody hurt? It’s a good game."

The room had erupted with laughter, but Katsa hadn’t even cracked a smile. She wouldn’t kill, not if she didn’t have to. A killing couldn’t be undone, and she’d killed enough. Mostly for her uncle. King Randa thought her useful. When border ruffians were stirring up trouble, why send an army if you could send a single representative? It was much more economical. But she’d killed for the Council, too, when it couldn’t be avoided. This time it could be avoided.

At the far end of the orchard she came upon a guard who was old, as old, perhaps, as the Lienid. He stood in a grove of yearling trees, leaning on his sword, his back round and bent. She snuck up behind him and paused. A tremor shook the hands that rested on the hilt of his blade.

She didn’t think much of a king who didn’t retire his guards in comfort when they’d gotten too old to hold a sword steady.

But if she left him, he would find the others she’d felled and raise the alarm. She struck him once, hard, on the back of the head, and he slumped and let out a puff of air. She caught him and lowered him to the ground, as gently as she could, and then dropped a pill into his mouth. She took a moment to run her fingers along the lump forming on his skull. She hoped his head was strong.

She had killed once by accident, a memory she held close to her consciousness. It was how her Grace had announced its nature, a decade ago. She’d been a child, barely eight years old. A man who was some sort of distant cousin had visited the court. She hadn’t liked him—his heavy perfume, the way he leered at the girls who served him, the way his leer followed them around the room, the way he touched them when he thought no one was watching. When he’d started to pay Katsa some attention, she had grown wary. "Such a pretty little one," he’d said. "Graceling eyes can be so very unattractive. But you, lucky girl, look better for it. What is your Grace, my sweetness? Storytelling? Mind reading? I know. You’re a dancer."

Katsa hadn’t known what her Grace was. Some Graces took longer than others to surface. But even if she had known, she wouldn’t have cared to discuss it with this cousin. She’d scowled at the man and turned away. But then his hand had slid toward her leg, and her hand had flown out and smashed him in the face. So hard and so fast that she’d pushed the bones of his nose into his brain.

Ladies in the court had screamed; one had fainted. When they’d lifted him from the pool of blood on the floor and he’d turned out to be dead, the court had grown silent, backed away. Frightened eyes—not just those of the ladies now, but those of the soldiers, the sworded underlords—all directed at her. It was fine to eat the meals of the king’s chef, who was Graced with cooking, or send their horses to the king’s Graced horse doctor. But a girl Graced with killing? This one was not safe.

Copyright © 2008 by Kristin Cashore

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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What People are saying about this

Melissa Marr
“Katsa and Po are wonderful: They make me want to cheer. Due to a strong heroine, a supportive hero, political intrigue, and action throughout, this is a book I’ll share with my daughter.” —Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely
Susan Hirschman
“I can’t remember when I last was this impressed by a new fantasy. Kristin Cashore’s voice is fresh and fluent. The characters are memorable, the plot filled with surprises—all of which are entirely plausible—and the end result is a story that you tear through so that you can immediately start again at the beginning and read it with the care it deserves. A truly spectacular novel.”
—Susan Hirschman, Founder of Greenwillow Books
From the Publisher
"In this debut fantasy, Cashore treats readers to compelling and eminently likeable characters and a story that draws them in from the first paragraph. . . . This is gorgeous storytelling: exciting, stirring, and accessible. Fantasy and romance readers will be thrilled."—School Library Journal, starred review

"Intrigue, death, love, a little sex, and pitched battles create a sure winner for mature fantasy fans."—VOYA (4Q, 4P)

"With a butt-kicking but emotionally vulnerable heroine, [Graceling] should appeal to fans of recent girl-power urban fantasies, as well as readers who've graduated from Tamora Pierce's Tortall series."—Horn Book

"Cashore strikes a strong balance between adventure, drama and romance—bloody battles and sexual tension co-exist in equal measure—and Katsa's combination of pride in her unique talents and vulnerability in her self-doubts make her a strongly sympathetic character. Readers will identify closely with this young woman, whose coming of age also involves coming to terms with a talent that is both a blessing and a curse."—BookPage, November 2008

"Graceling is the wonderful new book by Kristin Cashore about a girl with grace, but who is no Audrey Hepburn. Katsa's extreme special skill, her ‘grace,’ is that she's able to kill people with her bare hands (ouch). In a world of seven kingdoms, Katsa is certainly considered a bad-ass and is respectably feared. Ultimately though, the graceling ends up being shamelessly used by her own family to fight and torture their enemies... until she meets Po . . . There's been a ton of early praise about this debut novel—so much so that I think it's safe to say there's an official buzz."—Ypulse

"However, as in every season, a few other titles have risen to the surface as potential hits, based on pre-pub buzz, online chatter and word-of-mouth. We've singled out four for particular notice: three are inventive fantasy novels, and one is a harrowing memoir. Publishers and booksellers alike believe these books have what it takes to cut through the noise of a very full season."—Publishers Weekly online

"The teenage characters in this novel, like those we may know in life, grow into their graces. They realize that their monstrous individuality is not so monstrous afterall."—The New York Times Book Review

"Discovering one's true identity and powers is a common theme in young adult literature, but Kristin Cashore, with compelling characters and an ease in combining genres—fantasy, mystery, adventure, romance—develops this theme with enormous freshness."—Newsday

" 'Graceling' offers a fresh view of the process of learning self-mastery and has a knee-weakening romance that easily rivals that of 'Twilight'."—LA Times

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR Graceling:

“Here’s a WOW of a book! Seeing half-wild Katsa learn humanity as she battles soldiers, storms, and her own obsessive nature—I HAD to know how it ended!”—Tamora Pierce

“Katsa and Po are wonderful: They make me want to cheer. Due to a strong heroine, a supportive hero, political intrigue, and action throughout, this is a book I’ll share with my daughter.”—Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely

“I can’t remember when I last was this impressed by a new fantasy. Kristin Cashore’s voice is fresh and fluent...the end result is a story that you tear through so that you can immediately start again at the beginning and read it with the care it deserves. A truly spectacular novel.”—Susan Hirschman, founder of Greenwillow Books

FROM THE AUTHOR:

“I’ve always been a daydreamer; as a child I always lived far from school, and distinctly remember cherishing the long drive, because it was good daydreaming time. Graceling grew from daydreams I had about a girl with extraordinary fighting powers who loved a boy with whom she was insurmountably incompatible.”—Kristin Cashore

 

Catherine Gilbert Murdock
“A brilliant, unforgettable story. I consumed Graceling in one sitting, awed by its originality, breadth, and humanity. For a first novel - for any novel - this book is extraordinary.”
—Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author of Dairy Queen

Meet the Author


KRISTIN CASHORE has written for The Horn Book Guide, The Looking Glass: An Online Children’s Literature Journal, and Children’s Literature in Education. She received a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College. Graceling is Ms.Cashore’s first novel. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Graceling 4.5 out of 5 based on 3 ratings. 1860 reviews.
SabH-CrystalReviews More than 1 year ago
How can I even begin to review this book? How could I get you to trust me and read it, for it is one of the best book I've ever read? I can think of only one way: Must Read. I speak as I read. I'm happy. I'm sad. I'm scared. I'm relieved. I'm shocked. I'm waiting. Yes, all this while reading. Fiction, action, romance, friendship, fantasy, love, coping, dealing, Kings, Queens, evil, kindness, villain, killing... What else can you ask for in a book? The writing was excellent, astonishing. The plot was full of magic and emotions. The characters, oh, the characters; they were unforgettable and brilliant. I can not even pick a character a loved the most. They all were above marvelous. I love Po and Katsa obviously, but the rest were equally amazing. I do love Po! Did I say that already? I could not have imagined a better cover either, I loved the color, the effects and the eyes! The beginning, the ending and the story were all amazing. How she came up with all this, I have no idea. Needless to say, that whatever your reading preferences are, you have to read this book. I highly recommend it.
BANCHEE_READS More than 1 year ago
Our heroine, Katsa, is blessed, or cursed at times in her opinion, with a grace. In Katsa's world, a grace is a sort of innate ability that certain people are born with. Graces can be as simple as being able to play the flute really well, or as powerful as being able to read minds. Katsa's grace just happens to be killing, and as such, is exploited by her Uncle, the king, to preserve his own power and ensure that his demands are met. Katsa's role as royal enforcer often leaves her troubled, and somewhat afraid of her own powers. Deep down, Katsa is also lonely, although she doesn't realize it. That is, until she meets Po, a prince with a powerful fighting grace that seems to rival her own. As Katsa learns more about Po, and his mysterious grace, she also learns more about herself and finds the freedom to choose her own path. This book was pure fun. The story had plenty of action, beginning even from the first page, and I found Katsa to be a complex but likeable character. The romance was sweet, without being overly sappy, although I did find Katsa's negative views of marriage as somewhat puzzling. This may sound strange, but I also really enjoyed the antagonist in the novel. We don't actually see much of his character, but his grace was just so sneaky! Cashore kept me guessing to the end as to how or if he would be ultimately defeated. I am glad that I gave this book a try and I plan on reading Fire, Cashore's soon to be released second novel.
SeeMichelleRead More than 1 year ago
In all the Seven Kingdoms no is feared or revered as much as Gracelings -- individuals who are born with an innate talent to do something extremely well, be it to sing perfectly, outrun a horse, or even to read minds. Gracelings are immediately discerned by their different colored eyes, often to their disadvantage since most people distrust and even dislike them. Katsa is born with one green and one blue eye but has no idea what her grace is until after her seventh birthday, when she accidentally killed a man. With the unlikely grace of killing Katsa is turned into her uncle's (King Randa) personal thug and enforcer - sending Katsa off on missions to 'punish' his vassals through pain, torture or even death. For herself, Katsa views her grace as a burden -- more often than not seeing herself as a monster. That is until she begins planning and executing her own secret missions with the help of her friends to combat the oppressive reigns of various rulers. One such mission to rescue the kidnapped grandfather of another ruler doesn't go exactly as planned when Katsa encounters another Graceling almost as talented in fighting as she is. A Graceling who will challenge every belief Katsa holds about the world around her and herself. Boy, oh boy, Katsa kicks butt. Really. She's not happy unless she's taking out an entire battalion of bad guys. She doesn't feel feminine (she even cuts off all her hair - I can totally sympathize!) but she still possesses this incredibly soft inner self which is slowly uncovered as she opens herself up to others. In her struggle to define, and perhaps more importantly, learn to control her Grace, Katsa strives to find the courage to take control of her own life. This fast-paced book practically flew by but still took the time to address even minor characters which left me feeling satisfied and thoroughly engaged throughout. Graceling is an adventure story, a fantasy, a mystery, a political suspense, a romance -- it has it all and doesn't stop for a second. I found myself thinking about Katsa long afterwards because by golly, how fun would it be to be able to KNOW you could take down anybody, I mean anybody, before they even noticed you had two different colored eyes?
BluHawk More than 1 year ago
I read constantly, and I have only enjoyed a few other books as much as I enjoyed Graceling! The plot was strong and fast-paced, the characters were phenomenal, and I loved the story! This is absolutely a must-read for any book lover! Incidentally, the other books I loved were "Daughter of the Empire" by Feist, "Heart of Myrial" by Furey, and "Hunger Games" by Collins!
Cookie3 More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books ever! I did an english project on it and would definitely work on it again. Don't even think about it, just go to barnes and noble and buy it! (unless you don't like fantasy/adventure/mystery/romance) Looking through Katsa's green and blue graced eyes, you see her world of fantasy. There are 7 kings ruling over the land and people. Her uncle is one of them. He is a cruel man who uses Katsa as his weapon, because her grace is killing. She can kill an army without any weapons or armor and easily win. She is unstoppable, until a King interferes and has her running for her life. This book will take you on a thrilling adventure that includes action, romance, and mystery. The next in the series is Fire and then Bitterblue (sadly they haven't come out yet).
LunaDance More than 1 year ago
READ THIS BOOK!! GRACELING is a wonderful book, and when reading it you feel as if you really know the characters and are really swept up in the adventure of it all. This book is not only a great and absorbing read, but also makes you think about issues in today's world. This is the kind of book you stay up till 3 in the morning reading. I could not put it down, and i can't wait for the next books by Kristen Cashore. (The fact that i know the author's name by heart speaks extremely well for her.) This is an amazing first novel, and an just an amazing novel overall. -Luna
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm finding it hard to put what I want to say into words other than, FANTASTIC! MARVELOUS! A GEM! A MUST READ!

I haven't been excited about a book in a long time. This one deserves it! Oh, it has fantasy, and life, and tribulation, and strife, and laughter, and nonsense, and ... just read it!
kel_anne More than 1 year ago
This is a very interesting young adult fantasy novel. The main character, Katsa, lives in a world where certain people posses extreme skills or talents, called a "grace". These people are called Gracelings, and they are easily recognizable by the fact that their eyes are two different colors. Katsa's grace is the ability to kill, and she's forced to use her grace as the King's enforcer. But what should she do when the King's orders go against everything that she believes and feels? This was a really good fantasy novel! I enjoyed it quite a bit. Lots of action and a good touch of romance. The only reason that I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 was because of the ending. There was this whole build-up around who the "bad guy" was and evading him and such, and then it ended really abruptly and was very anti-climatic. There was another section of the book after that to wrap up a few loose ends. I kinda liked that section, but at the same time it seemed a bit odd to me. Maybe it's trying to set up another book? Not sure. But overall, I am really glad that I read this. The only other problem I had was that I listened to the audiobook and I'm not sure if I recommend that. It was a full cast audio, so basically one reader for everything but the dialogue, and then a bunch of readers for the dialogue. And honestly, they were all pretty good. It took me a bit to get used to that kind of setup because I am so used to just one or possibly 2 readers. But I got used to it pretty quick. The problem I had was the music that they kept inserting into it! That drove me crazy! I kept feeling like I was watching some old movie where some says something that's supposed to shock or surprise you, then you hear "Dum, dum, dum" (or whatever the music happens to be). I just felt like laughing every time that they did it! Which is probably not a good thing since they were adding it to the parts that were supposed to be suspenseful! So, I think that I'd recommend reading it, not listening to it.
kannraley More than 1 year ago
I truly loved this book!! It took me a while to buy it...more than once I picked it up, read what it was about, & put it back. It just didn't sound like something I would enjoy. I was sooo wrong!!! I've read it twice now & it's fantastic!! The storyline, the adventure, the mystery, the romance, I love Katsa & Po!! I think this is a definete must read...you won't be dissappointed!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If u read fire first it will give away the whole plot line of gaceling and make reading it unenjoyable
iWrite16 More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic! It's so unique in its plot and characters. If you haven't read it yet, you need to!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You must get this book i love it. I cant wait to start fire then bitterblue i couldnt put it down my parents would ask me how long i stayed up the night before reading it. You shold totally read it I CANT STOP THINKING ABOWT IT !!!!!!! If you dout how good it is read other reveiws. This book is about girl named kast who is graced with killing and dosn't want love but yet falls in love with a man named po who's graced with fighting or so he says! If you don't like this book i don't know whats rong with you!
Courtney6 More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading this book I got really confused at what was happening. As the story progressed though, I got so into it I didn't ever want to put it down! The characters are amazing! You never knew exactly what was going to happen at any time during this book. My favorite characters (the main characters of this story) were Katsa and Po. I love them both very much. I definately love this book, and recommend it to anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters were amazing..the story and everything about it too.I stayed up till 12:30 am reading it until I finished reading it.I have to admit tht the ending was sad,but it was still a very good book all the way
beach_babe17 More than 1 year ago
A friend of mine recommended this book to me and at first i was like this book sounds a little strange, but after I started reading it I fell in love with it!! I read this book in two days! I could not put it down! This book is about a girl, who has what is called a grace, which is a special talent or ability. There are people thought the kingdoms that have these abilities but no two are the same. This book is filled with adventure and excitement. I recommend this book all of my friends and to anyone that loves a good adventure!!
feather_lashes More than 1 year ago
I knew nothing about Graceling when I started reading it. It's a highly recommended young adult fantasy that is the first novel in Kristin Cashore's Graceling Realm series. It's been on my "to read" list for two years and I finally got a push to read it after it was selected for me in a "pick it for me" book challenge. I am so glad I finally read it! Graceling is Ms. Cashore's first novel and it is wonderful- very well written story with plentiful character/world building. Katsa if the story's heroine and I love that with all her strength and talent, she has very realistic and human feelings and insecurities. Her love interest is worthy of her and their bond is beautiful. A lot goes on in this story and it kept my interest well. This fantasy world offers a medieval type of setting with an interesting element: Gracelings. Gracelings are people who are born with an extreme skill or gift. They are rare and are vulnerable to be forced to work for others, using their skill for another's advantage. Again, a lot happens in this story and it would be a diservice to spoil anymore of this plot. I think I enjoyed this story so much because every chapter and every new character that entered was a surprise. I highly recommend this book to older teens and adults who are fans of the fantasy genre. I listened to the audiobook of Graceling by Full Cast Audio and I highly recommend experiencing the story via audio. There is a different voice for every character. It felt like listening to a performance versus a reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a guy and I thought it was amazing and I've read it several times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has all the makings of a bestseller. The story starts off excellent setting up a world of these 7 kingdoms filled with gracelings with special abilities. The character all had interesting backgrounds and interesting connections.However the praise stops there. I was incredibly dissapointed with this book. The plot was boring and there was an exceptional amount of detail in trivial parts and not enough when it mattered. The romance was lacking yet so was the action. I read it all the way through but i will not be reading the sequel. Would not recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good book.
lrjohnson13 More than 1 year ago
This was a fantastic start to the series! Katsa’s story is so riveting right from the beginning that I found it hard to stop reading. She was easy to relate to even though she had a completely different perception on life than I do the author did an amazing job of having me know exactly where she was coming from. I loved Po’s attitude and even though I couldn’t see his eyes for real I was ensnared by them all the same. His personality and joy shown through the narrative and captured my heart. My absolutely favorite character in this book had to be Bitterblue. For such a young kid she was extremely perceptive and knew exactly what was going on around her. I am extremely excited to continue on to the next book and find what other amazing characters await.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is an average book at best. The book lacks the detail that I was hoping it was going to have. The author failed with the main villan and I was really let down by that fact. On a positive note it was an easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! There was so much going on. The end was actually a shock for me, with Po. I think this is a great book for young adults who like romance with some action mixed in. Overall an amazing book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cant express my love for this book and how even tho im using this annoying nook keyboard to type and how i should actually be sleeping, i must write something for one of my fav books of all time. The plot. Amazing. Setting. Also amazing. But what truly grasped my attention were the characters. So full of life and personality, its easy to forget theyre only words on a page sometimes. Yet theyre not now are they? Everyone has different tastes in books but as a picky reader myself, i take great caution before buying a book yet i have no regrets. This is a book ive reread so many times ive lost track. I read Fire first, then this, then Bitterblue. But i guarantee you, you will want to read the other two if you enjoy this one, which is hard not to. Beautiful Magical And the perfect escape from reality
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It started out pretty good then spiraled downhill fast. There was sexual content that I sure didnt need to read about. It had potential to be a great story but it didnt work in my opinion. Plus it had the worst ending. I wanted to throw the book across the room. What a waste of my time.
Leps1824 More than 1 year ago
Graceling tells the story of the seven kingdoms, in an almost medieval type of style. The seven kingdoms each led by their own royal courts are constantly trying to get the upper hand against their rival kingdoms and trying to so to speak, flex their muscle for the other kingdoms to see. This book in particular followed Katsa the girl with the "Grace" for killing or so she thinks. The whole Grace system is basically a gene situation, where if a person is born or obtains (as they grow up) a Grace they are particularly good at something in their life and have two different colored eyes. There are tons of Graces, for example, swimming, mind reading, killing, and yes even tree climbing. When Katsa goes on a mission to save a kidnapped person, she meets someone who ends up changing her life and she also learns how to control herself and not be manipulated into doing the dirty work of her Uncle, King Randa. With Katsa's special abilities she is able to take out almost a whole army with her bare hands, a pretty neat trick. As Katsa, and her new "friend" Prince Po try to figure out why his grandfather was kidnapped, they uncover a web of lies and a situation that can only be stopped by literally taking control of your own mind. If that description sounds confusing..I'm sorry, but there is truthfully and thankfully a lot going on throughout the book. Lets just start by saying Katsa is a TOTAL bad ass. Grace or no Grace, the ability to take on ten armored men at one time and win, is something to truly boost about. Katsa changes a lot through the book. In the beginning she is this hardcore chick who no one truly understands and everyone is afraid of. She eventually begins to take control of her own life and that's when her transformation truly occurs. She starts to be way more compassionate and really avoids killing or hurting anyone at all costs. This all starts when she meets and begins fighting Prince Po as a way for both of them to practice their Graces. Po talks to her about letting herself decide who she wants to be, and Katsa truly starts to become her own person. There are a lot of truths that need to be uncovered throughout, for example, Katsa's REAL Grace, Po's REAL grace, and what the heck is going on in the Monsean Kingdom. This book was full of action, intrigue, and a hint of romance. The romance between Po and Katsa was not forced, and with how much time they were spending together on their journey, it was really inevitable that they would start to have feelings for each other. There is so much exciting action throughout that really anyone would be interested in knowing what was going on. I liked that for once in a YA book when it comes to hand to hand combat, the woman actually had the advantage and did a whooping on the guy. It wasn't a "oh save me Prince Po, I ever do need some rescuing." It was a more of a "Move out of the way this group of 15 soldiers is mine." While that was a good trait for Katsa to have, the whole idea that she had in her head that marriage and having kids was awful was not too exciting. I like my main characters to have a future together, not be separated by what they eventually want from life. The only other complaint I had about the book was the enduring journey. Yes, I understand it was trying to showcase how far they had to go, and how much they did in order to complete their mission, but it was just dragging on forever, specifically when Katsa and Bitterblue are alone in the harsh winter mountains. Other than those small things, I really did like Graceling. It was exciting, thrilling, and even shocking at times. It did have that (OH MY GOD) moment that books try to sometimes create...but end up failing at most the time. In Graceling it was perfect and totally unexpected. This truly is an adventure story that shows how far people will go in order to make a situation right. For the series in general, I have generally heard negative things about the second book of the series "Fire" which is a prequel to Graceling with different characters. Personally I hate when series do that, so I might be skipping that one. I however, won't be skipping "Bitterblue" the third book in the series that comes out in early May. This book will have more characters we know about and follow someone we meet towards the end of Graceling. I truly am excited for this one!