Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore.

Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore.
This book is: A YA fantasy novel, the first in a series, about a girl with a supernatural gift for killing.
Other elements: Right vs wrong, romance, friendship.
Read it: If you like YA fantasy, if you enjoy ass-kicking women, if you liked The Hunger Games.
Overall rating: 8/10
I really like reading YA fantasy, even though I’m in my mid-20’s. (Mid-to-late 20’s? Where do you draw the line? I’m clinging to “mid” for now.) YA fantasy is comforting – usually good things happen to the good people and bad things happen to the bad people, for the most part. It’s free of things like vivid descriptions of how clothing in different lands shows different parts of breasts (ahem, Robert Jordan). It also tends to be simpler overall, unlike some epic fantasy series which can become extremely, sometimes overly, complex. Not to hate on those books, I enjoy them too, but sometimes they’re just not what you want.
I’ve read enough fantasy that I have certain pet peeves that I take as a sign that a book is going to be bad in a way only a fantasy book can be bad. This book was guilty of one of these right away and it took me quite a few pages to accept that I liked the book anyway. The sin? Weirdly-colored eyes. Bad fantasy novels love characters with weirdly colored eyes. (Even good fantasy novels use this sometimes.) In this case, I forgave it.
The characters who have weirdly colored eyes are those who have been blessed/cursed with the magical powers that exist in this book’s universe: something called a grace. A person who has a grace has an innate extraordinary skill for something. Swimming, cooking, climbing trees – it seems to be limitless in scope and can involve multiple abilities, as long as they come under the heading of the grace. I think it’s a cool idea, and not one I’ve encountered before.
The other really great thing about this book is the ass-kicking heroine. She’s a nobly-born girl – a close relative of the king – and a Graceling. Her grace is killing.  Rather than hushing it up and trying to keep her penned-in and properly feminine, the King uses his deadly niece as a one-woman goon squad, sending her to break the fingers of people who annoy him and that sort of thing. She doesn’t particularly like this, but feels unable to disobey, so she starts finding ways to use her grace to help people in secret. This leads her to make a new friend, who helps her to discover a new way to live her life and leads her into a spectacular adventure. I love YA fantasy.
My main complaint is that the writing in this book is not always the best. The plot and the characters are engaging enough that it’s still very readable, but it has moments of being rather wooden. Despite that, I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who likes YA. I am already on the waiting list to check out the next in the series from my library.  

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