Series Review: Graceling Realm

Series Review: Graceling RealmGraceling
by Kristin Cashore
Narrated by David Baker
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Published 2009 by Full Cast Audio
12 hrs., 31 mins. Audiobook
Source: Library
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult


Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. And now she is forced to work as the king’s thug. But she never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po...

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

I knew when I read the synopsis that I would really enjoy this book. It was just one of those books that I have a feeling about it. I’m so glad I was right! I loved it! It was like the first time I read The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. I love this world and everything about it.

Once again, I have to praise these characters. Katsa is one of the best heroines I’ve found in a book yet. She’s strong in so many ways. Obviously, she has great physical strength. She also has very strong will and determination that I love in female characters. She pushes herself to the limits to keep Po and Bitterblue alive. It’s also nice to have a character that’s not too perfect. Katsa is stubborn, and I’m so glad I don’t hate her for it. It’s written well enough into her character that it doesn’t really bother me. It just seems normal. Po is also wonderful. Po is a great laid-back and playful guy. He’s the humble type of royalty it’s so easy to love. None of it goes to his head and it makes him that much more attractive, especially to Katsa.

I really appreciated the fact that Cashore allowed their relationship to develop. There was a little individual development with the two of them, but most of it was done in the relationship itself. It also allowed me to notice the realistic dialogue between them. Sometimes I read books and think “No one would ever actually say something like that.” I never felt that way while reading this story. Everything seemed perfectly normal. There was tension when there needed to be tension and it was easy when they became more intimate with each other.

The plot was great! It was such an original idea. There’s plenty of fantasy I haven’t read yet, but this felt very original. The story itself sucked me in and didn’t let me go until the very end. I never felt bored or like I wanted to skip over something, which is rare for me. Though Cashore’s writing wasn’t anything special, it seemed to flow well enough. It was appropriate for the genre.

The audiobook I listened to was done by Full Cast Audio. It was wonderful! All the actors were age-appropriate and had great reading voices. Also, if you haven’t tried the Playaway portable audiobooks, you should. They’re great. You can choose between three different speeds and it saves your spot whenever you turn it off. They’re pretty neat, but they’re about $70 so I borrowed mine from the library.

Series Review: Graceling RealmFire
by Kristin Cashore
Narrated by Xanthe Elbrick
Series: Graceling Realm #2
Published 2009 by Listening Library
12 hrs., 40 mins. Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult


It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there's more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren't afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

I found this book in the Teen section of the library, though I’m not sure how much I agree with that classification. I feel that the young-adult novel has a feel to it. I don’t think Graceling or Fire captured that feeling. I think I would have enjoyed this book whether I were 20 or 40. It just feels like pure fantasy to me.

Cashore is really becoming one of my favorite fantasy authors. I love to read about different worlds, but only when they’re crafted well. The Seven Kingdoms & the Dells are so interesting and well-done. I think Cashore has really made a name for herself in the fantasy genre with these books. I’m eager for the next one to come out and I’m really hoping she’ll be writing for years to come.

Fire is written in third-person, which I enjoy in fantasy novels. I think the story-telling style works well in the genre. I think a big pitfall in some of the books I end up disliking is the fact that they’re written in first-person. It takes skill to do that well. Too often authors blather on about the opinions of the main character when they have no real relevance and don’t help with plot or character development.

Cashore, again, provides full and well-developed characters. It’s impossible not to love them, and it’s so obvious that she loves them. Fire certainly has the biggest development of all the charactersm, which is appropriate since the book is about her. I was surprised with King Nash’s development. After his first appearance, I expected him to be the jerk the entire book, but he really turns out to be a good character. I was very satisfied with how he changed.

I have to admit that it took me a little while to grasp the plot. It wasn’t nearly as fast-paced at Graceling so I had to grow accustomed to this book’s pacing. I think it could have used a little more of a climax regarding the war. I was expecting a little more out of that element. I think it’s partly because I keep trying to make this book about all the characters, rather than just about Fire. The book is titled after her so I really should have taken into consideration that we’re following her story the way she experiences it. There’s not so much action with Fire as there is emotional development. Depending on the situation, I sometimes find that kind of story anti-climactic. I think with an audiobook this is really determined by the narrator. I’m not convinced this narrator did a good job conveying Fire’s inner struggles. The story is much more character driven, but there’s a really great story there.

I was most surprised and delighted with the beginning of the book. I was pretty confused by the story about the little graceling boy with one red eye. I found him positively creepy. It wasn’t until the end of that story, when we learn who he is, that I was extremely excited about his involvement in this story. I was so glad I had read Graceling already. I think if I had read Fire first, it would have ruined Graceling for me.

One of the issues Fire faces every single day is people trying to use her gift for their benefit. I have to give her props for not caving in immediately. It really is ridiculous. It’s hard to find real friends when you have abilities like Fire. How can you seperate those who like you for who you are from those who like you because your useful. I think this is a relevent question in real life. What do people gain from being in contact with you? Are they only around because you can do something for them? If Fire’s case, it’s hard to say. I personally think a lot of the people she’s around wouldn’t be nearly as interested if she were just a normal human. On the other hand, there are some who have gotten beyond the question of what she is and are much more interested in who she is.

If there is a theme in this book, it’s trust. Fire is constantly dealing with trust: trust in others, others trust in her, trust in herself. Why should we trust others? How far can we really get without trusting another person? Fire has quite an issue with trusting herself. She remembers the terrible things her father did and knows she is capable of the same things. It’s her a very long time to overcome her fears and finally trust herself.

Cashore’s style is perfect for the period and culture she’s writing about. It has the perfect amount of formal writing. She’s a very capable writer with clear, consisent prose. Her writing flows so well. She’s just such a joy to read. Not only that, but I find both this book and Graceling to be very original. I’ve never read anything like them before. I didn’t like the way this one developed as much as Graceling, but I was, under no circumstances, disappointed.

Series Review: Graceling RealmBitterblue
by Kristin Cashore
Narrated by Xanthe Elbrick
Series: Graceling Realm #3
Published 2012 by Listening Library
16 hrs., 33 mins. Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck's death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck's reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea's past has become shrouded in mystery, and it's only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle - curious, disguised and alone - to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.

Whatever that past holds.

Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .

There was no question as to whether or not I would read this book. I loved Graceling. Fire was very different, but still very awesome. I’ve been excited about Bitterblue since I first heard of its release. It’s been a long time coming so I had major expectations, and while it didn’t quite meet those, I really don’t think the content is to blame.

First of all, Bitterblue is such an amazing young woman. She may not have the warrior-like skills of Katsa and Fire, but she has the mind of a true queen. She wants what is best for her people and will stop at nothing to make sure she can provide for them. Even with the memory of Leck’s lies standing in her way, she’s determined to find the truth and do what’s right. She even takes matters into her own hands when her advisors provide her with no answers. All of that is what makes her such a strong character. Every supporting character is just as developed. It was also wonderful to read about Katsa and Po again. And I particularly enjoyed Giddon in this book.

I wouldn’t say I was expecting something more from the plot; more like I was expecting something different. The pace is much slower than that of Graceling, both in overall plot and romantic development. It was more on par with Fire in plot development. I think what disappointed me was the romance. I know I’ve read other reviews and it seems like everyone else loved it, but I wanted more from it. In Graceling and Fire, the romance is a huge part of the story, but it wasn’t as present in Bitterblue. I can only hope that there is more to come from the Graceling Realms series. I love the world and the characters that Kristin Cashore has created and I want more of them.

My slight disappointment is two-fold. First, I had the audiobook uploaded onto my phone and never paid much attention to where I was in the novel. Though I felt that the book was dragging a bit, I was completely surprised when it ended. It wasn’t dragging I was just expecting something I wasn’t getting and I wasn’t keeping an eye on how much I had left, which is apparently important.

My second issue was the narrator. I’m not going to say Xanthe Elbrick was bad, but she wasn’t great either. She did some great voices (though I hated her voice for Katsa). I think there was some nice forethought about where each character was from. For instance, Po and Sapphire had similar accents because they both grew up in Lenid. I also loved her voice for Dieth. So, kudos on that. What I didn’t like was the way she read everything that wasn’t dialogue. She sounded so bored. She pretty much sounded like she was reading, which isn’t a good thing when you’re a voice actor. I think I would have enjoyed this one much better had I read it in print.

Bitterblue is a good third installment in the Graceling Realm, but I was hoping for more out of the romance. The amazing characters and the discoveries they make are what really makes the book enjoyable. I would recommend reading a print or e-book copy rather than listening to the audio.

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