"Katsa didn't think a person should thank her for not causing pain. Causing joy was worthy of thanks, and causing pain worthy of disgust. Causing neither was neither, it was nothing, and nothing didn't warrant thanks."
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Plot Summary: Katsa is a living weapon with the Grace of killing, used by her uncle King Randa to strike fear and terror into his subjects. Her Grace manifested itself when she was a mere child, killing a court guest when he attempted to touch her. The majority of Randa's court is fearful of her, except for a select few, such as his son Prince Raffin and the two men Katsa works with: Giddon and Oll. The only way Katsa can continue to be herself under King Randa's rule is through the Council: a counter government that attempts to do good even under the poor rule of the current kings. Graceling begins with Katsa, Giddon, and Oll sneaking into a castle to free a Lienid Prince. Katsa knocks all the guards unconscious but bumps into a Graced stranger with silver and gold eyes, who also was a Lienid. She knocks him out as well but does not kill him. They return to Randa's castle with the freed Lienid Prince and hide him, before encountering a silver and golden eyed Lienid visitor to the court: Prince Po, who is searching for his grandfather, the Lienid Prince. Katsa allows Po to see his grandfather and they soon become close friends: training together as only Graced ones can, and working together to find out why his grandfather was kidnapped.
Critical Evaluation: Graceling's plot is well-thought out and strongly paced, moving from action-packed scene to scene, all the while building Lady Katsa's character all the more concretely. Katsa as narrator allows the readers to view her world from her point of view, not only in the brief description of the different kingdoms and their rules, but in their unfair rulings and her creation of the Council to help the people. Katsa finally breaking free of Randa's rule and fleeing alongside Prince Po frees her spirit as well, which was kept captive, allowing her to blossom as a real person instead of an instrument of fear. The dialog and dialog tags within Graceling were concise, realistic, and easy to understand, making the novel a fantasy series that can easily be transposed onto a modern setting, despite the kingdoms and Kings and Graces. The use of Graces and their tell-tale physical manifestation in the form of mismatched eyes is an interesting choice of magical power for Cashore to choose. Graces cannot be hidden, except in the form of one-eyed people, and they are easily recognizable as resources to their Kings. Symbolically, Graced ones' mismatched eyes could show that despite their amazing gifts, they are still human, instead of having all Graced ones with inhumane eyes.
Reader's Annotation: Living in a court who fears her, Katsa, a girl Graced with the ability to kill, struggles to maintain her own identity under the thumb of her cruel uncle, King Randa. When Katsa meets a Graced Lienid fighter with mesmerizing gold and silver eyes, she slowly starts to come to know herself better, even the secret behind her own Grace.
Information About the Author: Kristin Cashore grew up in Pennsylvania while reading everything she could get her hands on. Along with reading, reading and reading, Cashore spent her time daydreaming about other worlds and strange powers.
After finishing graduate school for Children's literature, Cashore could not stop writing even though she switched from formal essays to fiction. Read more about Cashore at her website.
Curriculum Ties N/A
- Katsa is a Graced one, with mismatched eyes that cause fear wherever she goes, for she has the Grace of killing and under her uncle King Randa's power she does not lack people to harm. All of Randa's court fear Katsa, all except his son Prince Raffin and Katsa's two accomplices, Oll and Giddon. It is only when Katsa meets Prince Po, a strange foreign boy with silver and gold eyes, that she meets someone who can truly understand her.
- Afraid of harming other humans with her Grace, Katsa was able to kill a full grown man as a child. Now, as one who punishes those who disobey her uncle, King Randa, her Grace has been put to use for torture and bullying. To free herself from the horror of her own life, Katsa leads a second one, working for a Council of well-meaning people from throughout the land who try to circumvent the power-hungry Kings.
Reading Level: 16+
- Katsa is a smart young woman with an amazing gift, one which she misinterprets at the time. Katsa's Grace of survival being misinterpreted as one of killing is quite similar to those who come into their physical strength at adolescence but use it for the wrong means. Katsa's realization that she can do what she want and not listen to King Randa's threats is a show of her independence from his tyranny and her coming into her own as a person.
Why This Book?: Staff recommendation; ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Cashore, Kristin. (2008) Graceling. USA: Harcourt Books.