by Kristin Cashore
I missed my chance to snag a review copy of this book back in the summer over on Mini Book Expo and I wanted it. The cover made me think “Ooo. Shiny! @_@” and once I started seeing it in the stores I would caress the book ever so longingly, though I wasn’t going to buy it in hardcover. I didn’t want to pay the price. But then I got discount coupons in the mail as part of my book discount card program and once I added up what I was going to buy and the savings, I thought, “Well, $18 isn’t really bad for a hardcover, and the book doesn’t seem too short.” So I picked it up (I think it ended up coming to about $10 in the end). I was not disappointed.
Katsa is a Graceling. You know a person is Graced because they have two different coloured eyes. People are generally nervous around those who are Graced, but especially around Katsa whose Grace is killing. She can’t be beaten in a fight and her Uncle-King uses her to punish those who don’t do as he wishes. King Randa is a big bully and people fear him, but that fear is mostly because he will send Katsa out to seriously injure or kill them if they cross him. Katsa is tired of being used as a killing machine, she no longer wants to cause pain to those who do not entirely deserve it and she no longer wants to be used by her uncle. She creates a Council of allies who help those in need of help and saving. The Council does good in secret yet this doesn’t entirely negate all the bad Katsa does for her Uncle. Once she meets Prince Po her views on who she is and her life start to change. Perhaps Katsa isn’t just a killing machine after all.
Katsa is a strong heroine with a good head on her shoulders. She was very likable and fun to read. Her struggles seemed real and not superficial and one of the things I really liked was that she was concerned about the other girls she would meet. Throughout the story she continuously commented on how the young girls should know how to protect themselves. I have never read a fantasy novel where the heroine was intent on giving self-defence lessons to others. She wasn’t all that self-centered either, like I find with other fantasy novels. She was independent, didn’t want to marry and have babies (a woman after my own heart, though I did actually get married in the end, but there will never be babies! ) and be owned by some man. Katsa learns a lot about life, love and herself on her journey and much of it due to her new friendship with Po and then a young ten-year old Princess called Bitterblue. (And as an aside, I really liked the name Bitterblue, I think it would make a good dog name…).
I am so very happy I broke down and bought the book. It looks so nice in hard cover, too. I need new bookshelves though (well, I only have 2 to begin with and enough books for about 8 shelves, but that is besides the point). I need shelves that fit hard covers on them properly. Wonder if Santa feels like taking a trip to IKEA with me?
The Seven Kingdoms