Graceling came with the rather dubious recommendation, “[This] exquisitely drawn romance … will slake the thirst of Twilight fans”, on the front cover. However, I really enjoyed Fire, so I went ahead and read it anyway.
While it doesn’t quite have the accomplished sense of depth of Fire, this is Cashore’s debut novel, and as such that’s simply a sign that her novels have developed since the beginning. She does a good job of introducing us to the fantasy world the story takes place in, without being artificially explanatory or giving us too many made-up terms to try and remember.
The heroine, Katsa, is a graceling, marked out by her mismatched eyes and an uncanny natural ability – in her case, the ability to inflict violence. Ever since her gift was discovered, her uncle the King has been using her as a tool of intimidation against those who displeased him. A chance to investigate the mysterious kidnapping of a neighbouring King's father offers her an opportunity to escape and to prove to herself and others that she’s more than just a mindless thug.
One of the things that really stood out about this novel was the unusual angles we see events from. Katsa is an unconventional young woman, but this is only to be expected as the heroine of a young adult fantasy novel. However, the feel of the narrative is also different – while the novel appears to be of the standard ‘vanquish the villain’ type, you get the feeling that defeating the bad guy wasn’t really what it was all about.
The Twilight-style epic romance promised on the cover was, thankfully, more human and believable than that, albeit made more complex by the respective graceling abilities of the pair involved. This novel is populated by strong characters throughout, and we also meet Princess Bitterblue, the protagonist of the third and final novel in the trilogy. Despite being a child, she's forthright and intriguing, and I’m really looking forward to reading more about her.
Next up: The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr