I ran into Graceling while researching books for another class project on Amazon. I have included it because it is a great read. It has won the 2009 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, the SIBA Book Award for YA Literature, is a Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award and the Indies Choice Book Awards (retrieved August 1st, 2009 from sidebar at http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/).
Author: Kristin Cashore
ISBN-10: 015206396x ISBN-13: 9780152063962
City and Publisher: Orlando, FL: Harcourt
Copyright Date: 2008
Author’s Website: http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/
Reader’s Annotation: Katsa is nearly indestructible; she is a Graceling endowed with the power of killing. All her power doesn’t leave her free however; her life will never be her own until she can find a way to escape her uncle, the king, who forces her to act as his enforcer and executioner.
Plot Summary: Katsa lives in the seven kingdoms, and is one of the Gracelings, unusual people born with an extraordinary skill or talent. Hers is killing. Her uncle, the king of the Middluns, forces her to act the enforcer and executioner for his political whims. Her sense of justice is uneasy, and she forms a clandestine group which rights the wrongs created by the selfish wishes of the ruling class. But she will never be truly free until she can escape her uncle and find the truth of her power. When she meets Po, a mysterious stranger Graced with fighting, she has the opportunity to find her true destiny, and maybe a little romance on the way.
Critical Evaluation: Graceling is an intriguing story and Katsa is a wonderfully strong, independent character. Her inner journey is fascinating; she is one of the most powerful people in her kingdom, and yet is so firmly entrapped by her situation, that when she decides to break free and follow her own mind it is wonderfully liberating for the reader. When she is acting independently, her attempts at reconciling what she wants with how she thinks she is supposed to act create a humanizing third dimension for such a strong heroine, as well as evoking issues modern day women face in juggling careers and home lives. The romance between Katsa and Po really sucks the reader in.
Reading Level/Interest Age: 14 and up
Curriculum Ties: Graceling is a great just for fun book as well as an excellent example of contemporary fantasy.
Booktalking Ideas: If two book talkers are available read the dialoge between Katsa and Pol beginning on page thirteen (this is their first interaction). Graceling and The Hunger Games would be a good pair to booktalk together.
Influences from Other Genres: Romance, Adventure
Challenge Issues: Katsa is fiercely protective of her independence. She is reluctant to begin a romance with Po because she does not want to get married and have children. When they do become physically intimate (without being married), she takes a contraceptive herb.
Katsa’s reluctance stems from her long subordinance to her uncle’s deadly wishes. She values her freedom, and cannot see a way to be married and be the master of her own destiny. Although she is not able to reconcile the two, this is more a character flaw than an example to readers. The choice she makes is difficult, and is one solution to a problem that resonates in our own world, where women must juggle the demands of families and careers. Her choice is one that reflects the seriousness of marriage, rather than devaluing the institution. Parents, whatever their opinions about premarital sex and birth control, will be given a great opportunity by this book to discuss the related choices, and their consequences.
About the Author: Kristin Cashore has a M.A. in children’s literature from Simmons College. Graceling is her first novel. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts but has lived in New York, Austin, Pennsylvania, Italy, and London, where she made pretend phone calls from her bathtub. (More details at http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/2008/02/short-bio-of-me.html)