Published in 2008, Graceling by Kristin Cashore is the first novel in a fantasy YA series. Yeah, it’s been a hot minute since this novel was published, but I think it deserves more attention. This novel has idiots to lovers, a hot prince, medieval fights, a toxic uncle, a killer heroine, and a soft prince who practices botany.
While I love fantasy novels with cute princes, see my short review for Kill the Queen, I enjoyed this novel because Katsa is a cute idiot!
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Katsa’s a Graceling, a person born with a special ability, but her Grace grants her the ability to kill. Katsa works for her uncle, the king, as an assassin. On one mission, Katsa comes into contact with Prince Po, whom she knocks unconscious and kidnaps his grandfather.
When Katsa and Po meet again, the two hit it off and spend most of their time training together, aka rolling around in the dirt and throwing punches. But Po makes Katsa think beyond her life as an assassin, and Katsa grows weary of her uncle.
When word reaches Po that his aunt is hiding away with his cousin, he grows suspicious her husband King Leck, a beloved king. Additionally, Katsa and Po have yet to figure out who attacked his grandfather.
As Po and Katsa work to uncover these missing clues, they also develop romantic feelings for the other.
“I’ll teach you how to defend yourself, how to maim a man. We can use Po as a model.’
‘Wonderful,’ Po said. ‘It’s quite boring really, the way you beat me to death with your hands and feet, Katsa. It’ll be refreshing to have you come at me with a knife.”
— Kristin Cashore Graceling
Sometimes you read novels with awesome heroines, and you’re all for it. Vibing and cheering the heroine on. Then you have a heroine like Katsa, who loves to hit things and doesn’t care if you hate her. What I’m saying is I think I’m in love.
Katsa kicks everyone’s ass, including her crush Po. When Katsa officially meets Po, they fight, and he pushes her face into the dirt. And that’s when they realize they’re going to be great friends.
I didn’t expect this kind of couple dynamic, and yet…now I have high standards. Po and Katsa are top tier idiots to lovers.
The plot of Graceling doesn’t drag, nor are the side quests boring. My favorite arcs of this novel are when Katsa stands up to her uncle and the introduction of Bitterblue. As previously mentioned Katsa is a pro at kicking butt, but she hates it, and she wishes she could do more than that. Katsa’s assassin skills are the product of her Grace, and she truly believes she must live as her uncle’s pawn for her whole life. Even though she has the capacity to kill anyone who threatens her!
When Katsa finally finds the courage to stand up against her toxic uncle, I cheered very loud.
Bitterblue’s arc interested me because she was a young runaway forced to grow up super quickly. Bitterblue learns to trust and survive and grow into her power as queen. Bitterblue’s arc begins in tragedy, but throughout the novel, she blooms.
Like Katsa, Bitterblue also must combat a toxic family member.
I think I was really digging these two arcs because both of them learn to stand on their own. And sometimes we need the reminder.
I liked this novel and would recommend it for fans of Fantasy. The romance slowly builds between Po and Katsa, and it’s entertaining to watch as Katsa becomes angry at herself for catching feelings.
The ending to this novel was unexpected and a bit wild but a great conclusion to the romance.
This novel does not have characters of colors, At least from what I noticed while reading. Additonally, it’s technically a YA novel but there are some mature themes.
Content warning for some implied incest, toxic family members, and lots of murder.
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until next time I’ll be living in libros,
great review!! it’s been so long since i read this book, i can hardly remember it.
I think Graceling was the first YA Fantasy I read when I was like 12 (?) And holy I remember 1) being allergic to romance plots but secretly wanting more of Katsa x Po and 2) literally forming my personality around this book. 10/10 I need to do a reread! I don’t think I ever actually got to Bitterblue’s book and there is a fourth novel out so!!!
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Wait, botany prince? Ok, this is going on my reading list. 😁 Also, I’m guessing I’ve seen “idiots to lovers” somewhere along the line, but I’d like to see a quality example to be sure.
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