Review: Graceling

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


Contains Spoilers

Rated R for minor cussing due to pent up rage.

I’ll admit, the only thing that kept me reading past chapter 3 was Reading With a Vengence’s Chapter Snarks on this book. This book is absolutely horrid. There are so many things wrong with it, I don’t even know where to start.

1. Mary Sue Characters.

Yes, both main characters are Mary Sues. Kasta is a Sue, Po is a Sue.


Let’s start off with the fact that Kasta’s grace is the most OP grace you could ever have. It was already extremely strong when it was just simply killing, because somehow, she can manage to perfectly knock out many guards yet also not leave them with any brain damage (be warned, if you go unconscious, it’s usually because your brain has suffered enough trauma that it shuts down consciousness). She’s also completely invincible in a fight. Po can’t even harm her. It’s like she’s got leather skin or something.

And then, you know, all of a sudden, lol, jk! Actually Kasta’s grace is survival! And since in order to live life, you must survive, basically her grace is just living life! So she’s also part god-like then, since she’s basically invincible! And we should totally be ok with this!

Yeah, no. What kind of bullshit is that?

Not only is Kasta’s grace super OP, she doesn’t actually have any real flaws. Either that, or her flaws are minimized in such a way that the reader doesn’t find it to be a flaw.

Supposedly Kasta has anger management issues and she also doesn’t have any friends until Po. But Kasta never actually loses her anger in the book, you’re just told that she has. The only times Kasta seems to lose her anger are when she punches Po, which can’t count really, because she was expecting him to fight back, and when she kills Leck whilst her mind is a befuddled mess, which really can’t count either because she wasn’t even in control of herself, how could she manage her anger? Plus, even if you did count them, you only have 2 examples out of an entire book where she could have gotten angry and lost it.

She’s managing her anger quite well I think.

What bothers me even more is that Kasta is constantly thinking “Oh! I don’t have any friends! Poor me!” But then who da fuck is Raffin? Or Oll and Giddon? Are they just business partners then? Because they certainly don’t seem like it. If you’re so socially awkward, how the fuck did you start up a whole secret organization targeted towards helping people? Leaders don’t just become leaders just because. Being socially incapable of making friends is a big setback to becoming a proper leader. It doesn’t seem like she’s having any trouble leading though.

Next Sue trait – everything she does is right because her actions bring no consequences upon herself. And even if they do, she couldn’t give a shit about them because she’s OMFG INVINCIBLE. (Unless it moved on the plot. And then Kasta gives all the shit about it.) Like the horse part? I think plenty of people have addressed this problem, but I’ll say it once more, you can’t ride a horse like that, because if you do, you’ll either cripple it or fucking kill it.

But, you know, fuck that. She’s Kasta. So naturally, it’s the horse’s fault for being unable to gallop at super speed all the time. And all people are going to do it shake their heads at her.

It’s fine to just tear off a silk dress and burn it because you fucking hate dresses even though it would have totally been reused for the poor out there and thus make you not act like a selfish bitch. It’s also just ok to steal eggs, because poor starving Bitterblue wants them, even though, down the street is a council affiliated shop that will hand over all the food that you can eat just because you’re Kasta, and the girl that you stole the eggs from probably also needed them too.

That logic. It doesn’t make a single ounce of sense.

Kasta acts like she doesn’t care about her looks, yet she worries all the fucking time about how she looks. If she really hated her hair that much, why couldn’t she just pull a Mulan and crop it off with a sword? But no, Giddon’s gonna laugh at me, so I can’t do that. Po’s gonna think I’m hideous so I can’t do that. They’re gonna think I look weird at the court so I can’t do that. RANNE’S GONNA GLARE AT ME! -gasp- -dies-

Oh fuck that shit, you think you’re already hideous (even though of course, you’ve got those lovely green and blue eyes, instead of the squash yellow and brown eyes and lovely handsome Po, with his gold and silver eyes is completely infatuated with you) so ugly hair wouldn’t make a difference anyway.

The only true flaw is that Kasta has not a single ounce of normal logic in her brain, which probably is a flaw that wasn’t even done on purpose. If she had some common sense, she would have realized that Randa had zero power over her. She literally could kill him any time. But fuck that because “OMG, HIS DISAPPROVING GLARE! I’M GOING TO DIE!”.

Yes, please. I would like to see you die by glare Kasta.

If she had any more sense, she’d understand that you can’t toss a shitload of fish into a basket and expect them to live as long as you feed them. Or that you can’t expect a ship to just wander out at sea for an endless time period just because.

There are so many more things wrong about Kasta, but let’s move on to Po.


First off, I can’t take his name seriously. First time, when I saw the name Po, I thought of the red teletubby. And then Po from Kung Fu Panda. The fact that he’s named after a tree with gold and silver leaves doesn’t make it better. One, that kind of tree doesn’t actually exist, which meant Cashore had to make up the name for the tree and thus, it’s still her fault for the shitty name. Two, what, naming people after trees is a thing now? Oh, Oak, son, go clean your room! And Cottonwood, my daughter, have you brushed your hair yet? Hemlock, honey go wash the dishes! Alder, dear, you need to do your homework!

Ha, no.

The fact that his real name is Greening Grandemalion just made it worse, because not only can I not take him seriously as a character anymore, I can’t take King Ror seriously anymore for being the father of a child of such name and I can’t take Cashore seriously anymore for finding it ok to name her main character a fucking shitslop name that lacks in taste on all aspects of the name spectrum.

No, it does not sound pompous. It sounds hideously stupid.

I understand that the whole Greening Grandemalion thing is suppose to be a funny joke. Like “Oh my, what a ridiculous name!” But jokes like this need to have at least a realistic base. It is true that there is an Indian name, Shithead, pronounced shi-theed. If that had been put into a book, prompted with the right context, then there, that would have been the perfect, hilarious joke.

Greening Grandemalion is just so unrealistic in name and in the sense of someone naming their child that, that my first reaction was not “Oh, that’s unfortunately funny.” but, “Seriously? You named your character that?”

But enough with names.

Po is a Mary Sue (or a Gary Stu, as the male counterpart) for many of the same reasons of Kasta. His grace is OP to the extreme. Somehow, he can avoid Leck’s mind manipulation even though there is no clear explanation as to how Po’s seemingly unrelated grace of sensing people can overcome brain fogging and befuddlement.

Because… reasons.

Nothing ever happens to Po. He cries because “OMG. MY LIFE SUCKS BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL USE ME IF THEY KNOW I CAN SENSE THEM!”. He reads Kasta’s mind and it’s fucking creepy, and the fact that he’s responding to her thoughts, doesn’t make it any better.

He’s a selfish bum, because he has a whole castle (which is stupidly built on rocks, anyone can tell you that’s a dumb idea) and a portion of the kingdom he could rule, but fuck that, I’m wanna live my life staring at pretty scenes, which to be honest, isn’t much better than living a life of luxury. The only difference being that the first one, you’re staring at sparkly waterfalls, the second one, you’re staring at sparkly metals. Neither one makes a good ruler.

So who’s dealing with all the shit that happens over at his castle while he’s away staring at his sparkling waterfalls?

God know how that place hasn’t plunged into chaos yet.

Of course, you might say, “Well, he went blind!”. Yet, well fuck that, because remember, he can also now just sense EVERYTHING. It’s like losing your sight to gain super sensory vision that lacks only in colors, which you’ve seen before, so you could totally just add in your mind. Not to mention, it seems that Po’s super sensory vision is a lot stronger than normal vision.

So no, Po didn’t really lose anything at all.

(Also, you can’t just decide to make your character go blind just because. There’s a whole science behind it with brain injuries and shit. Po’s blindness is just all wrong the way he describes it.)

2. Shitty World Building

I’m going to re-direct you to Rhea’s review of Graceling for this one because she does a full analysis of the world building in Graceling better than I ever would.

But to sum it up for those who don’t want to read another whole review on top of this shit long one (even though I highly recommend that you do), basically, Cashore’s world lacks sophistication. Everything is too black and white, either you’re good or you’re bad. All the kings do everything and also, all the kings are supposedly corrupted evil people, except Leck at first, Ror and kinda Randa. I’m surprised this world hasn’t self imploded from political instability.

There is no backstory or anything for how the Graced came to be. If there had been some reason for Kasta’s OP power, it would have made it more acceptable. But instead, you have nothing. Just, there were 7 kingdoms and people are graced.

3. Horrible Prose

I will admit. I read Graceling right after a John Green spree. Some of you might be like “Ewwww John Green!” (or the opposite I suppose). But whether you’re a John Green fan or not, you have to admit that John Green’s books’ readability are so much higher than Graceling.

I can’t give specific examples because the book has long been returned to my library because keeping it any longer would run the risk of me throwing it into a fire of eternal hell, but when you start seeing every other sentence starting in “for” (and actually are not complete sentences) something is wrong.

Cashore’s writing is stiff. There’s no flow. She’s trying to sound formal and medieval but it’s not working. Her descriptions are flat and dialogue mediocre at best. Bitterblue talks like a full grown adult in a child’s body. If I had simply looked at the dialogue, I would have thought that she was much older than a child.

Big fancy metaphors aren’t required for good prose.Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder, does a good job of keeping the descriptions concise, but also clear. No fancy metaphors that contribute nothing to the image. If I flip through Cinder, I’ll find more dialogue than description, yet I still have a very clear image of what the world looks like.

The biggest problem with Cashore’s writing, is that she tells way more than she shows. There is a massive info dump in the first couple chapters. You’re also told half of Kasta’s backstory, rather than shown. You’re told this happens and that happens, but nothing is shown so it’s impossible to be emotionally attached to anything.

Just like how you’re told Kasta had anger management issues, but you never see it in action.

Seeing is believing.

4. Most Fucking Idiotic Names ever.

Rhea’s review goes over this a little. Either way, I must rant about these names, because they suck. You could literally ask a 6 year old to regurgitate gibberish and you’d get better names.

So, what’s so wrong about these names?

Well, some of them are acceptable, like Raffin, and Oll. Giddon is alright (though it seems more like the problem child of Gideon and Giddy). But some (like fucking Greening Grandemalion) I just cannot take seriously.

First off, anyone notice the similarities between Kristin Cashore and Kasta? (Same thing can be said of Clary and Cassandra Clare.) Explains 99% of why Kasta is so OP – she’s the author’s book personality, of course she has to be god-like.

Po’s name is even worse. I won’t say anymore, because I’ve ranted enough about his name.

Bitterblue. Seriously? Is this like some lame ripoff of Jay Z and Beyonce’s little Blue Ivy Carter? Because it seriously sounds like one. Also, what’s up with naming people colors? First Greening and now Bitterblue?

The kingdoms are supposed “clever” alterations of the four directions. Rather, I find them to be stupid sounding. You could have said “The Northern Kingdom” and it would have gotten the same message across – “This kingdom is in the fucking north.” – and sound 10 times more legit.

Thigpen? Ror? Leck? Seriously? Could you not name these kings names that sound like they were pulled directly from medieval comedies featuring fat clueless kings that know about nothing but drinking and eating?

Randa city. Alright, we’re name cities after kings now? Nice way to shortcut your way out of making even worse names for them, but the general rule of thumb is that, no king is pompous enough to name the capital city after themselves. Generally known to cause revolts. Of course, just generally.

5. Absolutely terrible ideas and plot holes.

Question: How da fuck are there massive predators up so high in the mountains where nothing small seems to even survive so there’s nothing to hunt and eat? And where is the firewood coming from?

Also, let me mention that no matter how graced you are, you can’t just run through masses of snow basically naked and not get frostbite or die.

Other problems I’ve noticed:

No government, president or king can be happy if a whole secret political society formed right beneath their noses without their knowledge no matter how good the cause is. You’re undermining their power and no one likes to be undermined.

Countries don’t just settle things in other countries! You can’t just send military forces to another country to settle a revolt that happening in THEIR country just because it’s a revolt. Just. NO.

This is medieval times, no matter how rampantly notorious or popular you are, not everyone is just going to automatically recognize you because of your famous colored eyes. News doesn’t spread like that.

Why, just why, did no one ask Kasta anything when she kills that man? It’s completely illogical. Oh yeah, that child killed a man because she definitely was not being sexually harassed and we won’t even bother to ask about it. You could say it was a court full of inconsiderate jerks, but no one was curious enough to find out? Impossible.

You can’t just shoot arrows in the dark at a target and expect to hit them. That’s a huge undermining of archery. That’s like saying you can kill a whole army blindfolded. That’s a huge undermining of the army. You just can’t. No matter how graced you are. (Plus, being super good at archery is no requirement for surviving, so I don’t see why Katsa’s grace is making her so good at it.)

Rings = Lienid land? Why haven’t more people tried to steal these rings?

Kasta’s whole rant about how marrying will make her belong to someone is completely invalid and only makes her sound like a whiney bitch. First off, marriage does not equal a life of “imprisonment in a castle”. Getting married does not mean you have to be the fucking head of the house. God no. I wouldn’t even want someone as irresponsible as you as head of the house. Getting married is not a restriction.

Oh, and she can’t bear the idea of babies sucking at her boobs. The horror!

Please. Someone. Shoot me now.

I won’t even bother to talk about Po and Kasta’s relationship because that would just take me on a whole other 1000 word rampage.

So in conclusion, I hate this book. Thank you all for lasting till the end of this rant. Would I recommend it? Hell no. But you can go ahead and read it anyways because somehow, it manages to maintain a 4.11 rating, which I find completely absurd.

And maybe you’ll love it, which will be quite unfortunate.

View all my reviews


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