Author: Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: 2009
Price: $17 (hardcover), $9.99 (paperback) $14.99 (audio)
Interest Age: 14 and up
Lexile Level: 730
Annotation: Graced with the ability to kill, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own skills as she teams up with another to take down a corrupt king.
Plot Summary: At the age of eight, Katsa killed a man. In a land of seven kingdoms, rare individuals have talents called a Grace. They can manifest themselves at any time – some come early and some have talents develop later. The only physical attribute of a Grace is that they have two different colored eyes. Katsa is grace with the talent of killing. As the niece of the king, she is used as a pawn. He sends her to torture people that has gone against his wishes. After one of her missions, Katsa decides to create a Council to help people. It was on one of the Council’s missions that she meets Po for the first time. A prince, he is on a mission to look for his kidnapped grandfather. Katsa gets drawn into this mystery as they fight the strange attraction between them.
Critical Evaluation: Cashore’s debut fantasy contains elements of adventure, mystery, romance that will appeal to a wide audience of readers. From the start, Cashore captures the reader drawing them into the world of the Seven Kingdoms and the story of a fierce young woman struggling to find her place in a world that does not want her. Katsa’s struggle to find purpose and place echo teens’ struggles to define themselves and find identity and belonging. Well-plotted story lines and exceptional world building, Cahshore excels at evocative prose and unforgettable characters. Katsa is both brilliant and flawed. The slow building romance does not detract from the adventure and will win fans due to the realistic portrayal of relationships. Katsa and Po do not not fall in love instantly. Instead, there is mutual respect and affection develops as the story moves along. In addition, it is worthy to note Cashore builds a world open to diversity including homosexuality. Give to fans of Tamora Pierce or Robin McKinley.
Author Bio: KRISTIN CASHORE is a freelance educational writer who writes content for textbooks and teacher editions, as well as book reviews for “The Horn Book Guide” and other publications. Kristin received her master’s degree in children’s literature in 2003 from Simmons College, where she worked with Liza Ketchum and was named a Virginia Haviland Scholar. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida. (from Ingram)
Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: Strong world building of a medieval fantasy world, slow building realistic romance story, page turning adventure, political intrigue
Challenge Issues: Graceling does have potentially violent scenes as well as allusions to incest and sex that some may find problematic. However, this brilliant novel has five different star reviews from review sources including School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. Additionally, it won the SIBA award in 2009 and been a nominee or winner for many state awards and an honor for the 2009 Indies Choice Book Award.