I really enjoyed Graceling by Kristin Cashore. The story is a touching tale of a girl struggling to come to terms with who she is and what she’s capable of. While it’s not perfect, it is a charming and wonderfully written novel definitely worth your time.
While the story starts off a bit slow, eventually all the characters start to come into their own. Each of them interact with Katsa in different ways that help to grow her as a character and, in some cases, help themselves develop more as well. Po and Katsa’s dynamic is fun and often charming while Raff and Katsa really have an adorable sibling relationship. I was scared that there was going to be a weird love triangle but luckily that isn’t the case at all. The entirety of the story focuses on Katsa and who she is, her own personal struggles and how she sees the world and its people. I loved the focus on character development, seeing how her experiences helped to foreshadow her character growth and to understand herself and what it means to actually have a friend. It was incredibly touching to see progressively change throughout the story rather than have a specific moment that flips her.
I loved the concept of the Gracelings. How each Grace is manifested differently and how some are stronger than others. I wish it was explored a bit more as it felt like it was underutilized for how much it shaped the world they lived in. Katsa does mention and talk about different types of Gracelings which gives a nice exposition to what they are and how people view them, however seeing it in action would have been more satisfying. However this is my only complaint as the rest of the world is decently developed and how people interact feels appropriate to what we would expect. How people react to Katsa is a nice touch to see how rather than it being stated, it has a real affect on her everyday life and dealings with normal people.
While the character development is outstanding, the plot unfortunately suffers a bit for it. The story starts off incredibly slow. Having finished the book, it feels completely warranted though as much of what happens early on impacts who Katsa becomes in the end. The issue, however, is that the plot of the story doesn’t get going until somewhere halfway through the book. The entire first half is almost completely dedicated to developing character relationships and exposition of what’s going on in the world. It’s not terrible as there’s still enough happening to move the story along, albeit at a very slow pace. Just know that it’s definitely worth reading until the end even if it does become plodding in the first half.
The writing is quick and easy to follow without ever dragging down the pace of the novel. Even with the beginning half being far slower, the way it’s written keeps it straight forward and easy to follow along and in times get lost in. This is another novel that has followed a formatting pattern that I’ve grown to love, where the pages are quick to read so forward progress always feels constant rather than intimidating. Some of the chapters do feel like they go one a bit longer than they should but it never takes away from the story thankfully.
What Writer’s can learn from this novel
One of the best parts of this novel is also what I feel is the best lesson an aspiring writer can learn. The relationships written and developed feel organic and develop over a long period of time rather than instantaneous for the sake of plot progression. Katsa and Po’s dynamic might be one of my favorite character interactions I’ve read in a long time. Raffin and Katsa are also incredibly adorable and I loved them both. Seeing all of the characters bounce off of each other in a way that made them feel like real people made it easier to appreciate who they were and how they were growing into their own. I really started to grow attached to the characters to the point where I genuinely felt concerned whenever something bad happened to them or the threat of something was looming over them.