The Trunk of this Tree – a review of Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Traditional high fantasy is something I stayed away from like a bad smell. This book was gifted to me and for a few months it was the prettiest book I owned. I had the full intent of reading it and expecting something vanilla.

But vanilla is my favourite scent. So who am I to be hypocritical now over a classic view of the genre?

After saving an old prince, Lady Katsa is soon to meet someone else who was looking for him. Thereafter the two of them grow curious as to why he was captured in the first place. With her strengths in the art of killing and her new friend Po’s own royal connections and battle talents, the two of them team up to travel through kingdoms to find answers. And the ones they do find may unearth one of the seven kingdom’s greatest corruptions hidden behind the most powerful being unknown to anybody.

The first act was borderline boring. I will straight up say that. I get it, you have to build up and explain the world and establish motivations. But I feel like a bit too much was spent on such matters. So much drawled on about Katsa’s relationship to the king and her reputation in the court. So much was waiting to happen without actually happening. I was so close to putting this book down for good.

I am so glad I didn’t DNF Graceling. I kept going and found riches.

Because when we get to the second act that was where I truly got hooked. The plot takes a simpler turn and it gives so much a chance to shine. From the plot and what happens to the characters as they become fugitives of kingdoms, how they wind up bonding and developing, seeing the natural world and how beautifully Cashore made it. For such high stakes the second act felt so cozy, and then the high action parts where things turn sour felt all the more crucial to get through as a result.

This was because of how much our main characters, Katsa and Po, truly shined. These two carry the whole story with their arcs, their banter and their relationship as it develops. They are the trunk of this tree of a story. Everything great in this story builds up from them, every scene they share and every time their motivations cross. They create something very calming and cozy throughout this whole novel. They epitomise the vibes.

This being the start of an anthology in the same world, I look forward to diving in to the rest of this place. Let’s see what Cashore has to offer. I’ll let you know if more riches come.

Graceling gets a score of 4/5. When something ends so sweet, you forget how sour it was to start.

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