Friday, February 20, 2009
Book Review: Cybils Finalist Graceling
Had it not been for the Cybils awards, I would not have picked up Graceling, because fantasy is not my usual cup of tea.
I am glad to have read it. Say what you will about contests and art not being compatible, well-respected ones can bring books into the hands of people who would otherwise have missed them.
Graceling is a story set in a world that, despite the differences to ours, have recognizable elements: love, jealousy, danger, geeks and other outcasts, power struggle.
It is billed as an adventure and a love story. There are sword fights and chases and a treacherous journey over an impossible mountain. Katsa's hero is a prince of a fellow and their romance is hearts-a-flutter tender.
But I think, at the heart, this is a story about a strong young woman. A young woman who has to come to terms with who she really is and where she stands in relation to people around her, who has to understand her gifts differently than what she's been told, who has to make choices for the sake of people she cares about and respects.
At the beginning of the book, she is under the control of a king, as his instrument of punishment, even though her heart is elsewhere. She wishes to free herself from his control, only to find that she may be controlled by something else: her own anger. When she overcomes that, she is understandably cautious about being involved with a man, because she doesn't want to be under the control of yet another person, hero though he may be.
Katsa struggles with trust and pride throughout the book and the author spends time in Katsa's mind as she makes a number of important decisions, including how to deal with the love of her life when she doesn't want to marry anyone. Incidentally, the book is written in a kind of older, more formal style language. The only time I find a modern word intruding into this make believe language is with the use of the word "lover" as she contemplates the difference between being married partners and "lovers."
As a character, Katsa definitely grows during the course of the book and it is a pleasure to read of the transformation of a wild, stubbornly-independent girl who doesn't like herself much grow into one who accepts herself and the gifts of friendship and support from others.