This has been an interesting week to say the least. The past few days I've desired nothing more than to stick my nose in a book and leave it there.To get lost for a time in any world but this one.
It could be my current state but Graceling was just kind of a meh read for me. The book follows a young woman named Katsa who is graced with the art of fighting. Those that are Graced are basically just people with a particularly strong skill at one thing and they also have really cool eyes. So a person could have a fighting grace that makes them ridiculously good at fighting. Or swimming. Or reading peoples minds.
In some parts of the world, the Graced are revered and in others people are terrified of them. Katsa lives in a land where they are scared of her and for good reason. Employed by the King of her land, he basically uses her to go beat up people and break limbs. She also has a really crappy attitude which doesn't lend itself to her being very well liked.
I say she has a crappy attitude but what I really meant to say was holy crap, she was one of the most infuriating, abusive, illogical characters I've ever come across. I understand this trend of having really strong female characters. I welcome it and it's nice to see, but this was the wrong way of going about it. Katsa was so entirely against anything feminine to the point that it almost felt like I was reading a pamphlet for 'How to Lose Touch With Your Feminine Side Forever ' with a slight sprinkling of 'How to be an Abusive Jerk!". Dresses? Nope. Long hair? Nope. Marriage? Nope. 'Cause like, I don't want to be tied down, even to someone I love. I'll never get to be me if I marry. I'll have to be responsible for someone else and even if they love me they'll stop me from adventuring! Woe is me! Children? Nope. Again. I'd have to dedicate my life to something other than myself. Being nice? Nope!
Now don't get me wrong. I understand where she is coming from on some of this stuff. I'm a pretty selfish person at this point in my life. Marriage and children are really on the back burner in my life as there are different things that I prioritize at the moment. Heck, they may always be on the back burner. There is nothing wrong with that. Her reasons for everything just felt very silly. Okay, so you've killed people for your King and lived under his thumb all your life and now you're going to use that as a crutch to be a really mean person and(show spoiler)
and deny yourself the pleasure of doing the things you couldn't have done while living under the thumb of an oppressive King. Alright. Whatever floats your boat, Katsa.
I guess I have a really hard time not comparing characters like this to Vin from the Mistborn series. That delicate balance of having powers, a strong personality and balancing it all with being a woman and being okay with that side of yourself was handled so well that I instantly shoot to that for comparison.
Also, the bad guy...Why was he bad? We don't know. We never find out motives other than he's just evil for the sake of being evil. Guess you got to have someone to fight against and it isn't worth giving them motives. He had such an interesting Grace too that had that been expanded upon, it would have made the last half of the book amazing!
The world building suffered in the same sense that it just didn't have enough meat. There was the bones of an interesting world, but every opportunity that arose to build on it was skipped over in favor of dialogue and characters. This isn't always a bad thing, but I personally think more world building would have made the entire book a lot better.
Overall, I enjoyed Graceling for the things it did right. It had some interesting characters, an intriguing plot and a few cool moments. It's lack of world building really hurt the story and made the motives of some of the characters really unbelievable. I can't say I'd recommend it to a friend, but if it happened to fall in your lap it would be a good way to pass a weekend.
+ The Graces were a cool concept
+ There were a few really likeable characters (Po, Bitterblue...)
+ The cover art is really pretty
- The story was lacking in the world building department.
- Katsa was infuriating.
- At times it felt like I was reading a book about the advantages of never getting married or having children.
- The villain had a really cool concept but was entirely devoid of motives. Since he didn't have motives, I didn't have a strong reason to hate him. This made the whole story feel rather pointless.