Five Reasons to Read It #1: GRACELING

You know what I think?  I think there are enough forums for book criticism.  I want to write about the books I read, but it makes me feel barfy to think of criticizing other authors’ work in public.  Writing is difficult and deeply personal.

Instead, as I finish books, I’m going to share things I like about them. 

This week, I finished:

By Kristin Cashore
Harcourt Children’s Books, 2008

Here are five reasons to read it:

  1. Katsa (the female protagonist) is both highly skilled and intensely antisocial (difficulty relating to others, no desire for the limelight, no interest in beautification rituals, etc.)  She’s prickly, but she’s brave, and she’s more interested in goodness than in niceness.  So I like her.
  2. Katsa and Po make sense as friends; I see why they like each other, I understand why their connection is lightning quick, and from a very early point in the story, I want them together. 
  3. Cashore doesn’t overwork the external conflict, particularly in the end.  She sets up the boundaries of the situation, shows the problem (very well, too – when they first make contact with the villain, it’s wonderfully tense), and when it’s time to resolve that conflict, she doesn’t linger and drag it out for the sake of drama.  She can’t, because of the way she constructed the problem, and I admire her for refusing to violate her own rules.  There is a ruthless sort of cleanliness to it.
  4. In spite of this cleanliness, GRACELING doesn’t come to a neat finish.  In some books that’s a fault, but in this one it’s not.  I think it would have been a betrayal to the tone of the story to tie everything up in a pretty bow.  I enjoyed the sense of questions still to be answered, trials still to be faced, character and world growth still to be accomplished.
  5. Katsa’s final choices are admirable.  In those last pages, I went from liking her to loving her. 

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