Author Spotlight / Book Review
by Helen McIver
Graceling and Fire are two young adult fantasy series by Kristin Cashore, both of which I read one weekend. Graceling won several awards and was shortlisted for so many others that it was on my list to read for some time (2008). I even had the hard cover. Somehow it disappeared under the pile. But then a 99 cent Kindle deal rectified my error; although I still waited until I had read 12 other newly downloaded books. I was absolutely hooked from the second paragraph (why did I wait so long?!). I was utterly grateful the library had the second (Fire, which is actually a prequel of sorts) as an ebook which I instantly downloaded for my planeride home. I impatiently await the third installment, Bitterblue due 1 May 2012. Could I please have an advance review copy someone?!!
These books have strong female characters in original, innovative, fascinating coming of age stories. And while the characters are 15-17, the books will also appeal to this age group while other readers will be attracted to the vivid story telling, romance and intriguing new world (NB I have been bereft while waiting for the next installment of GRRMartin’s The Song of Fire and Ice, although these are not teen material; Cashore however gives her readers a heady mixture which is well written and will further their readings.) Given the topics of atrocities of war, cruelties of mankind (and nonhuman creatures), independence and sexual freedom, these books are not for preteens. However, there are great discussion points relevant to our times.
Katsa, the main character of Graceling, has the power to kill with her bare hands, and has been a trained assassin since the age of 8. She has, however, spent grueling years learning to control her ‘grace’, and while under command to her king, also begins to develop a moral sense of right and wrong, forming a secret council to create justice.
Fire is half human, half creature (so beautiful that she is in constant danger from man and beast (who would preferentially eat her). The Kingdoms are in the turmoil of war as she wages personal battles and private grief. I found her tale particularly moving. I am also sure I will be saying “Rocks!” as an exclamation of surprise or delight for some time to come.