Monday, January 05, 2009

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

This is a fantasy but also a story of a serial killer - think Dexter

A graceling is a person graced with a special talent of some sort. It can be as simple as superior climbing ability or as complex as those of the three main characters. The story is set in a realm of many kingdom some known for peace and justice, some for manipulation and others for pettiness. Katsa has struggled since childhood with a grace that makes her a superb killer and a tool for her King's petty revenges. She does not want to be a horrid killing machine, she wants to be seen as a good person. To this end she begins going on missions to right wrongs such as recovering a kidnapped prince and soon has a network of supporters known as the council. To this council comes Po, also graced but with a much more elusive gift. He is searching for his grandfather, the kidnapped prince. Katsa and Po find their gifts complementary to each other and soon become sparing partners and perhaps friends. Still they must puzzle out why Po's grandfather was kidnapped, what scheming is going on among what countries to what end. They begin to suspect that Leck, a one eyed king with a reputation for kindness is anything but kind and is graced with a talent that allows him to control how people see him and think of others he considers his enemies. Leck's wife is Po's aunt, his daughter Po's cousin. Horrified by reports of sliced animals, missing children and Leck's wife and daughter barricading themselves in their rooms and refusing to see anyone, to eat etc, the pair set out for Leck's kingdom to rescue Po's relatives and confirm their suspicions. They arrive in time to witness the murder of Po's aunt and barely escape with their lives. Katsa has fallen under the power of the mad king's grace, Po's grace protects him. Once her mind is clear, she and Po set out to find Po's cousin who they sense has escaped. Po's failed mission to kill the evil king leaves him injured and unable to travel to safety with Katsa and Bitterblue. I think Katsa's grace should have enabled her to attack and kill King Leck simply because her grace means she will survive at any cost. King Leck wanted to control Katsa which she would not have allowed. But, Katsa and Bitterblue leave Po behind in seclusion and make a daring escape over a never before successfully travelled mountain pass in winter. Only, they go to Po's relatives for help and safety and right into the hands of the evil King Leck. Not sure why Katsa couldn't reason that this is what would happen, the outcome is ok in any case. The relationship between Po and Katsa continues to develop and I suspect a sequel or perhaps a trilogy to explore this further. Fast paced fantasy adventure with a couple of minor weaknesses. Anyone who has ever played Dungeons & Dragons may see some similarities to the game which allows players to have magical articles that give them special "graces" and aligns folks neutral, evil, lawful and so on. Readers wanting something more complex might want to try Judith Tarr's books. JDW 1/5/09

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