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The Graceling Realm trilogy has been on my radar for a while now. In fact, I had even decided I was definitely going to borrow all the books from the library as opposed to buying them, because I own SO MANY trilogies/series and I need to start being more judicious about buying them. I had been in a reading slump for a while, particularly after so many audiobooks that I liked, but weren’t my favorite genre, which is fantasy. After discovering my library had Graceling, #1 in the Graceling Realm Trilogy, on audio, I decided that along with picking up a light and easy book to read (Sh*t My Dad Says), I was going to pick up Graceling to listen to during my driving.
This book was exactly what I needed to listen to in order to pull myself out of the slump I was in.
Fantasy is always my go-to. When I’m in a rut, I ALWAYS return to fantasy. I love being pulled into a different world.
The world Cashore built in this book was great. I LOVE medieval fantasy, but I also really enjoyed the whole Graceling factor. Anyone could become a Graceling, at any time during their childhood. Every Graceling had different powers, and the Gracelings were pretty much outcasts of society because they were “different” and people were afraid of them. How like medieval times is that idea?!
I really liked the main character, Katsa. She is this fierce female warrior, and yet she has her soft moments – moments when she feels very compassionate, doubtful, or worried. It made her seem more balanced in a way that strong or weak female protagonists sometimes miss the mark on.
There’s a lot of character development for Katsa and Po throughout the book, which kept things refreshing. Cashore was also great at grounding her characters, making sure they were “humanized”, for lack of a better description. When Po has his accident, the grief he feels is almost palpable. I want to feel what the characters are going through, feel them change as they move through the story, and Cashore handles that well.
I was somewhat torn on the relationship between Katsa and Po though. It irritated me the way Cashore used the word “friend” about a bajillion times to describe the a-typical kind of relationship. Friend to me implies no underlying feelings, and that’s not what was going on here. I felt like there was a better way to describe the complicated relationship than the way she did.
There was one point where the story seemed to be wrapping up, and I JUST KNEW there had to be a plot twist coming. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. After having read the entire trilogy, it seems like Cashore builds and builds with these mini-catastrophes, lets you think things are on the up and clear, and then BAM, everything happens at once. She did a great job of tying the ending up too, which I appreciated.
I HIGHLY recommend the audiobook of Graceling. It was done with a full cast, so all the characters have very different and defined voices. Sometimes listening to books on audio can be hard if the narrator isn’t that great at changing voices. I fully appreciated having men and women narrators, and the woman who voiced Katsa was spot on in my opinion. I did find the music pretty cheesy (I actually laughed out loud in the beginning), but it didn’t detract from the listening experience.
I LOVED this book. I had to wait two weeks before getting my hands on the audio of Fire, the second book of the trilogy, and it nearly drove me mad. If you enjoy medieval fantasy and/or stories about enhanced abilities or “superpowers”, this book is DEFINITELY for you.
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