“Graceling” – The Epitome of the Romance Trend in Young Adult Literature

Book Review : Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Spoiler Alert!

Within the seven kingdoms there is a rare kind of person born that is graced with a talent, these rare individuals can be identified easily because their eyes are two different colors. Katsa was born with a unique gift, a Grace that sets her apart and others fear her. Katsa has the Grace of killing. Randa, the King of the Middluns, has control over Katsa and her fearsome Grace using her as his thug to enforce his reign. When Katsa meets Prince Po, who is Graced with hand to hand combat skills, she finally meets someone who is not afraid. Katsa’s world completely changes and the fate of the seven kingdoms comes to rest upon all of her abilities.

Adult Point of View

Graceling is a fun world and quite good as a first novel though it follows the typical pattern found in young adult romance novels.

The key ingredients in trendy romance novels include, a strong female protagonist (often exhibiting masculine characteristics, like battle skills), a romantic partner who is often described as beautiful or handsome, (slight variation would include a love triangle, not found in this book), resisting feelings of attraction, finally giving into the inevitable attraction, outside forces pulling the couple in love apart, and abandoning said partner (for a time) for a more noble cause and finally reunited.

Katsa is not only a strong female protagonist, but could be described as a female Byronic Hero. The typical Byronic Hero is emotionally tortured, moody, dark, violent and must be saved by the pure heroine (in this book represented in Prince Po). I actually liked Katsa, but her personality is over the top which is probably very appealing to teens. I am slightly bugged that the protagonist’s name could be abbreviated to ‘Kat’ as found in multiple other current young adult pop literature.

I particularly liked Prince Po, he is gracious, full of laughter and grew up surrounded by the love of his family. The culture he has come from with all of his rings, tattoos and other jewelry was well thought out and interesting. Prince Po made the novel more interesting and richer in texture.

I have one big problem with this book, and that is the attitude around marriage vs just being lovers. Here is Kat’s internal struggle.

“What was the difference between a husband and a lover? If she took Po as her husband, she would be making promises about a future she couldn’t yet see. For once she became his wife, she would be his wife forever. And, no matter how much freedom Po gave her, she would always know that it was a gift. Her freedom would not be her own; it would be Po’s to give or to withhold. That he never would withhold it made no difference. If it did not come from her, it was not really hers. If Po were her lover, would she feel captured, cornered into a sense of forever? Or would she still have the freedom that sprang from herself?” (p. 237)

Because I believe marriage strengths a couple, and does not diminish a woman or a man, I found this thought process to be very off kilter. As you can guess they choose to become lovers a little later in the book and some of the love scenes are rather steamy for too young of readers. Another detail which makes Graceling a better novel for a slightly older teen is the implications that the primary antagonist, King Leck, is a pedophile and abusive.

I was originally looking forward to passing this novel onto my teenage daughter, but decided she could wait because of the couple of things that I mentioned.

3 out of 5 stars

– the Mother

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About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow cooked in a tagine. Weekly I get together with friends and go to yoga for a bit of mommy time. Some may find me quirky, I prefer to think I am one of a kind.
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