Something clever I'll change later

I like fantasy. The end.
Graceling - Kristin Cashore As seen on my blog, Stumptown Books.

My feelings are split. Overall, I really liked Graceling, but it ended with me wanting to love it more than it gave me. It is was very readable, even if the story was a bit predictable, but I could hardly put it down. I wanted Katsa to win so bad, and I always like getting that invested in a character. However, the political undercurrents left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I just loved the idea of Graces. I especially like where Ms. Cashore went with both Katsa's and Po's Grace, where you don't always immediately know what your Grace is, nor do others. You just have to wait and see what you're exceptionally good at. I would kill to be Graced with cooking! Embroidery...not so much. Pretty soon I had out my Advanced Dungeons and Dragons manual and was looking at all the skills a character can have there. Here's a list of all the Dungeons and Dragons proficiencies, and as far as I could tell, anything from this list could be considered a Grace (although not ones that are obviously fantastical). So then I had to decide which one I would choose, and this degenerated into all sorts of arguments with my friends over the pros and cons of different skills. So good job Graceling for making all my friends think about you! I think I'd go for some sort of language knowledge, if that could exist in the Graceling world. Like taking the language right out of someone's brain or reading the dictionary like from that movie Phenomenon. Others that my friends said were musical instruments, oration, and gambling.

Here's where we get into it. I really disliked all of the talk of "anti-girl" things. You know what, I like pink, what's wrong with that? A lot, if you're Katsa. Any mention of even brushing her hair or a glimpse of a dress and she's liable to throw a fit. I tried not to let it bug me too much, but you really get bashed over the head with it. Katsa is independent, see? And being in a relationship, well that means you're not your own person, you "belong" to someone else. She doesn't like marriage and doesn't want kids! That makes her ~*special*~! After a while I couldn't decide just what the author wanted to do with her. She doesn't like brushing her hair, but wants to feel beautiful; doesn't like the idea of a relationship, but casual sex is great. Have a quote!

Graceling, page 159:
She couldn't have him, and there was no mistaking it. She could never be his wife. She could not steal herself back from Randa only to give herself away - belong to another person, be answerable to another person, build her very being around another person. No matter how she loved him...

[Katsa] understood three truths. She loved Po. She wanted Po. And she could never be anyone's but her own.

The end of that is disturbingly like the famous quote from Twilight ("About three things I was absolutely positive..."), which is particularly why I bookmarked that page. I certainly don't desire a heroine that reminds me of Bella, and Katsa thankfully does not. She just gets a little whiny.

Ok, I'm gonna level with you. I think Katsa is a female character written as a male. Now, think of her as a boy. How cool is it that he is able to murder people on secretive missions, has best friends that think he's amazing and hot, and a foreigner who is immediately drawn to him because he's so reclusive and mysterious? His Grace enables him to kill people effortlessly, he has emotional issues when it comes to relationships or commitment, and he really just wants to fuck some wenches and go on an adventure. Did the male pronoun make it more believeable? That sounds like any fantasy story. Is that what I wanted? Hell no, I want a strong female character damnit. This book tries to be feminist but in actuality it just reinforces masculine ideals. This is a strong female writer trying to convey a strong female character, yet her own misconceptions color the story.

As it stands, however, we get a bunch of readers angry over the bizarre not-quite-feminist views that Katsa supports. I don't want to come across as all for the institution of marriage, because I'm definitely not, but I feel Katsa's attitude just perpetuates stereotypes. Po really just wanted to be trusted, and although Katsa eventually comes around, her thoughts leading up to it are what stuck with me, and many other readers.

The bad guy was seriously more Katsa's own thoughts rather than the actual "bad guy." Leck (the bad guy) was in it for like a page and a half. Marriage was more of a villain than he was; he was completely forgettable, albeit terrifying when he had the upperhand. He simply wasn't around for long enough.

Po was great and I feel he got the short end of the lover boy stick. I felt his story ended on a bittersweet note that wasn't entirely necessary. Why couldn't Po and Katsa just be happy together in fairy tale land?! Alas, his tale made me feel heartsick, but not in a particularly good way. Katsa was so determined to be independent, do we fix this? I know, we make Po completely dependent on her!

This book was very close to being 5 stars for me. It just couldn't quite make it there with all the rants against marriage and children. However, we must also remember that this was a debut novel! Which means it was really well done for being a debut and still totally deserves its popularity. I will definitely be checking out the sequels.

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