I was really looking forward to reading this series. It’s a fantasy, with magic and strong characters – sounds a lot like my favourite: Poison Study! Basically everything I love in a book like this. It also came highly recommended by one of my lovely booktube friends, Lea, it being her favourite series and all, but unfortunately I just couldn’t get into it! And here’s why:
My main issue was with the world building. When that was out of the way, it got a lot better but the first half of the story was cut up by long exposition filled paragraphs cramped with information about the geography, politics and magical systems in the Seven Kingdoms. I found these sections to be quite boring, especially because they didn’t really progress the plot. It might’ve been better if the info dump was all in a prologue or something – that’s still not the best solution, because it’s a bit lazy, but at least it wouldn’t have jolted us out of the action every few pages for a History lesson. The series on a whole is very slow paced, and I attribute part of that to the poor world building.
Secondly, I didn’t quite understand the concept of ‘Graces.’ This is the series’s USP, as it were. Some people in the world are Graced, which means they have some sort of special power/ability. Our main character Katsa is Graced, but with what, she doesn’t know. Graces could be anything from being adept at cooking to controlling fire. To me the first kind of Grace should’ve been classified as something different entirely. What’s so specially about being able to cook or clean to the best of your ability. I wouldn’t really count that among sensing others when they’re nearby. It made the Graces seem trivial and slightly ridiculous if I’m being honest.
So Katsa, our main character, what about her? Well in many way she’s your typically fantasy heroine. She’s strong-willed and works hard, she also has a strong sense of justice and equality. Katsa’s Graced with the power to kill expertly. So there’s a little bit of a monster complex *eye roll* but I digress, because she’s more than just her Grace.
The dynamic she had with her friends (men) was similar to Yelena’s relationship with Ari and Janco from Poison Study, which I, of course, appreciated, HOWEVER my least favourite trope is when all of the men seem to be in love with the main girl. *cough Caleana Sardothien I’m looking at you *cough* What made it even worse was that Katsa kept reasserting that she would never marry and never have kids and bring them into the world. Why do none of these men respect that?!
Then there’s Po, the love interest. A Leinid with a Grace who she doesn’t know whether she can trust. Ooo, tension! Po and Katsa have a sort of love hate relationship, that’s closer to the frenemies dynamic, really. Basically it takes a long time before they build up a rapport and start working as team to achieve their common goals. Cats faces a lot of challenges, and Graceling, above anything else, is mostly the story of Katsa discovering who she is, and what her Grace really is as a result.
Above all, my favourite part of the story was when Po and Katsa got into the thick of the adventure, trekking through the landscape with Princess Bitterblue aka the best character of the whole series. Bitterblue is the only thing that kept me reading at times when the pace was a lot slower. I couldn’t wait to learn more about her in the next book, until Fire turned out to not be what I was expecting either.
Overall, I gave Graceling 3 stars it was still an interesting read, and I’m glad I can finally tick it off my TBR, but it just didn’t hold my attention, and was not as good as I was hoping.