The Seven Kingdoms #1
Most people have trouble meeting Katsa's eyes, which like all Gracelings', have mismatched irises. Katsa's Grace, fighting, has made her into a tool for her king. After she meets Po at an independent rescue mission, she begins to question her king's orders, and she and Po eventually embark on a quest that will reveal unsuspected deception in their world.
This is one of those books that I've heard a few people rave about on Goodreads, so I was excited to pick it up cheap at a library sale. Then at some point in the midst of the read-a-thon on Saturday I realized I needed something YA and easy to read, so Graceling seemed like the perfect choice.
It was actually a little too simple. The plot was extraordinarily straightforward - the characters knew everything halfway through the book, and after that the only issue was how to achieve their goals. The characters experienced little to no development, and I couldn't really sympathize with Katsa's antagonism toward even the people who were trying to help her. Po, on the other hand, was far too nice, willing to bend over backwards and tie himself in knots to make Katsa happy. I wasn't a fan of their relationship at all, and having heard that there is a sequel, I'm wondering what the author plans to do in it.
Besides lacking dynamism, Cashore's characters were also depressingly one-dimensional. (Should that be two-dimensional? I can never remember which one is the official literary term.) The bad guys were the novel equivalent of Disney villains, their motives chalked up to inherent character flaws and nothing more, while the good guys were either pining after Katsa, sensitive and artistic, or basically just willing to go along with whatever Katsa wanted. Or some combination thereof.
The book wasn't a total loss. The world of Graces was fairly interesting, and I didn't find myself so disgusted with the story that I didn't finish it. However, that's about all it had in its favor, and I highly doubt I'll be continuing this series. There's much better fantasy out there.
Plot: 2 cupcakes
Characters: 1 cupcake
Style: 3 cupcakes
Overall: 2 cupcakes
What to read instead:
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
Medalon by Jennifer Fallon
The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan