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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Graceling* by Kristin Cashore- young adult book review  
by Kristin Cashore
Grades 9+ 480 pages Harcourt October 2008 Hardcover    

Identified by eyes of differing colors, a few unique citizens of this ancient land are “graced” with incomparable talents. With one green eye and one blue, Katsa is graced as a killer. As the orphaned niece of the king of one of seven kingdoms, she is at his mercy, forced to use her grace to enforce the king’s policies.

Her compassion and moral sense of right and wrong move the story forward within her duties for the king. Just beginning to understand her own power, Katsa secretly organizes a council, designed to implement justice, with clandestine supporters within all the kingdoms. Representing the council, Katsa and her assistants free an old man, the kidnapped grandfather of a prince from an island kingdom.

Meeting the prince, Po, during the rescue, and later back home, Katsa learns that he too is graced, as a fighter. Their friendship quickly grows as Po helps Katsa to train; together they seek justice and the reason behind the old man’s kidnapping.

Katsa only kills when absolutely justified. So, when her uncle commands her to violently and publicly murder, she rebels, narrowly escaping his wrath. The friendship between Katsa and Po blossoms perfectly into an intimate romance. When Katsa discovers Po’s true grace, she is forced to reconsider not only their relationship, but her own place in the world and the ultimate purpose of her own grace.

Recognizing that they are strongest when working together, Po and Katsa rescue his cousin, Princess Bitterblue, and together they piece together the mystery of the kidnappings. When Po is injured, it is up to Katsa alone to save the princess and Po’s entire family from a terrible villain. The reputations of all seven kings are questioned, and a king’s grace which has hidden the source of many evil deeds for several years is revealed.

Graceling represents fantasy at its very best. Beginning with a map depicting the seven kingdoms, the storyline is flawlessly organized and detailed such that the reader can easily suspend disbelief and enter into the kingdoms to understand the relationships between not only the people but also the kingdoms. Kristin Cashore’s carefully woven and well-explained plot clearly takes the reader into an ancient fantasy world.

The fully developed characters and suspense involves not only vicious crimes, but also complex deceptions and intrigue. The relationship between Katsa and Po is primarily one of friendship based on respect. Their intimacy moves the book to a high school audience, yet is secondary to their mutual respect and independence. Katsa’s character grows, beginning as a servant to her uncle and growing into a strong, independent thinker. The subject matter is necessarily violent with physical fighting at the center of most conflicts. Nonetheless, the violence is never gratuitous; rather it is integral to the characters and critical to plot development.

With a striking cover, and fast paced action, the book will appeal to both sexes. Sure to gain a substantial following, the book would be an excellent choice for a high school book club, lending itself to discussions about the gifts we possess and how to best use them to make the world a better place. Highly recommended.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Kristine Wildner/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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