Graceling was one of those books that sort of shook me awake. The main character, Katsa, is unexpected: difficult, bristly and demanding. Exactly the types of descriptions I grew up fighting against as a young girl, therefore instantly endearing me to her ‘rough edges’. To an extent she behaves a certain way because it is expected of her, and no one has ever challenged her to think differently about why she acts so defensively. Of course her struggle is set in a world where there is magic, people with unique talents known as graces, and clashing medieval royalties, but Katsa’s struggle to decide who she really wants to be is at once startling and authentic.
I also greatly appreciated the author’s contemporary approach to thinking about Katsa’s choices as a woman. She decides she never wants to marry and only begins to contemplate a romantic interest, when she meets someone who respects her strength and independence, and isn’t threatened by it. Cashore does a very brave thing by presenting a non-traditional option for Katsa, and in turn, for the reader to contemplate. It isn’t an easy thing to venture into relatively uncharted narrative territory; this act commanded my respect for the author and doubled my faith in her to write an honest and relatable character.
It was wonderful to read a book where the lead is not only a young woman, but is also calling all the shots. She doesn’t need any men to protect or save her, not physically anyway. It is up to Katsa to learn how to let people in emotionally, and it’s this subtle struggle, which is so beautifully articulated in Cashore’s writing, that is the real heart of the story.