Wednesday, May 6, 2015

|12 in 12| Graceling by Kristin Cashore

12 in 12 is me committing to read 12 books in 12 months. These 12 books will be old books that I've had on my TBR since the dawn of time and have been pushed aside for all the SHINY. 
So I know it's May and I'm just now sharing my February pick for 12 in 12 and while I am behind on sharing reviews, I'm not behind on reading the 12 in 12 books so that's all that matters (just roll with it!).
12 in 12 February Pick

Title: Graceling
Published January 8th, 2008
Genre: YA fantasy
Rating: A
Goodreads summary:
Elisabeth Page is the daughter of Ben Page, yes, that's right, THE world famous novelist. And yes, she's also the sister of Rascal Page, world famous novelist in his own right. So what does Elisabeth do? Much to her family's disappointment, Elisabeth is a pastry chef. And a pretty damn good one, at Beverly, the hottest restaurant in LA. The last relationship Elisabeth had was with Will, a man she grew up with and whose family ran in the same social circles as her family. But Will's constant jaunts around the world have left her lonely and brokenhearted in L.A.

That is until Daniel Sullivan bids on one of Elisabeth's pastry tutorials at a charity auction. Daniel is everything her family is not: a basketball coach, a non-intellectual, his family doesn't summer on Martha's Vineyard, and the only metaphors he uses are about passing the ball and being a team player. But somehow they fit. Between her family, Will, and the new cooking show that Elisabeth is recruited to star in, Elisabeth's life is suddenly incredibly new and different--the question is, can she embrace being happy or has her family conditioned her to think she's just not good enough?Liza Palmer expertly depicts a woman trying to come to terms with professional success, personal success, and finally dealing with a family that might love her from the bottom of their heart but doesn't necessarily have her best interest always at heart.
Graceling is hand down, one of oldest (if not the oldest) book on my TBR. It's one of the first books that I came across when I started reading. We had multiple copies of it in my 8th grade reading college and I always picked up to read it but I always put it aside. Now I'm a sophomore in class and I FINALLY READ IT!! Alejandra, one of the first bloggers I diligently followed, raved about Graceling in every blog post she wrote and all her Youtube videos and she was RIGHT. Graceling seriously skipped the favorites shelf and went straight to the forever favorite shelf!

Why did I love it so much? Easy peasy. I appreciated how feminist it was. I did a whole review on the feminist aspect of it and specifically Katsa on my other blog, Feminist Talk Books, because it made me THAT HAPPY. But in this review I'll focus on every aspect of the book too.

I loved the fantasy and the world introduced. Graclings are people graced with a skill and instead of the gracelings being superior, they're actually disliked and the property of the king of the land. I liked this twist on being skilled and that it was something that the graced characters really struggled with. It made for beautiful characterization.

Katsa is graced with the skill of fighting and she's toughest and stronger than an army of a kingdom. I loved reading about Katsa's and how her strength meant that her uncle (a king) used her as a killing machine.  Her nickname is The Lady Killer and there is so much complexity and depth with Katsa resenting her job but appreciating her strength. On one hand, she knows about the evil in the world and wants her skill to protect herself and others but she's a slave to her uncle and he turned her into a monster.
“She knew her nature. She would recognize it if she came face-to-face with it. It would be a blue-eyed green-eyed monster, wolflike and snarling. A vicious beast that struck out at friends in uncontrollable anger, a killer that offered itself as a vessel of the king's fury. But then it was a strange monster, for beneath its exterior it was frightened and sickened by its own violence. It chastised itself for its savagery. And sometimes it had no heart for violence and rebelled against it utterly. 
So Katsa is really not in a good place in her life or in the best mindset about the world and I found her journey to be amazing! What I loved even more is that Po, the love interest, completely respected Katsa and her strength. He never once resented her for being stronger or held it against it. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. Po was such a nice guy, he was definitely complex, but he fit Katsa, who struggles with being used by her uncle, SO WELL. Respect, it is a beautiful thing.
“But you're better than I am, Katsa. And it doesn't humiliate me. It humbles me. But it doesn't humiliate me.” --When Po learns the extent of Katsa's grace. This quote is everything to me.
Plus, Katsa and Po are pretty damn swoony. Their chemistry is off the charts and I had to take frequent pauses so I can calm my grinning, feelsss self. The combination of Po who wore his heart on his sleeve and Katsa who was so closed off was a beautiful dynamic and it was handled with so much respect. Round of applause for Kristin Cashore. The book has a lot of heavy themes and Po and the romance balanced everything out so you have the heavy, tough stuff that Katsa has to work through and the swoon!

Another thing that deserves a round of applause is the fact that Cashore didn't "cure" Katsa from her beliefs when she found love. Katsa spent her life as nothing more than a weapon, harming others, for her uncle who's a king. She doesn't want to ever be tied to anyone and while she loves Po, she doesn't want marriage and is content with being a relationship without the formalities. THANK YOU. Thank you for giving Katsa agency and not belittling her experiences and respecting her views are valid. Katsa also had sexual agency and really, if this book wasn't already perfect, this would have broken the perfection spectrum.

So yeah, I loved this book with everything in me. It did take me a few chapters to get into because the writing is simplistic and distinct but I got used to it soon enough. Whether you're a fantasy fans or hate the genre, I still recommend Graceling because it's an important book.

Rating: [A+++] Every positive review was absolutely RIGHT. A new all time favorite. 
In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.

It hurt her eyes, almost, Ror City; and it didn't surprise her that Po should come from a place that shone.

Mercy was more frightening than murder.

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