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Satisfying but violent fantasy debut for teens.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Though forced to be a killer and enforcer, Katsa compensates by secret good deeds and by forming an organization to help the helpless.


The main teen character has a talent for killing and, beginning when she is 8 years old, she does so in many different ways, including smashing a man's nose into his brain and throwing a dagger through a man's mouth, pinning his head to the chair. She also breaks limbs, knocks people unconscious, and cuts off fingers. Flirting and foreplay with her boyfriend consist of bruising fights. A man shoots his wife in the back with an arrow, and intends to harm his young daughter in an unspecified way. A main character is shot with arrows, seriously injured, and blinded.


The main teen characters have sex several times, though it is not described in detail. Some kissing, a mention of girls kidnapped for a whorehouse, a reference to menstruation.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Soldiers drink and get drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a book about a young girl who is talented at killing, and she does so often and in various, sometimes gruesome, ways. It is also clear that she and her boyfriend have sex on several occasions, though it is not described in detail.

What's the story?

In the world of the Seven Kingdoms, a few people are born with Graces -- talents beyond the ordinary. At age 8, Katsa discovers what hers is: killing. Trained by her uncle, the king, to be his enforcer, Katsa also secretly forms The Council, a group dedicated to helping the helpless. But when she rescues an old man who has been kidnapped by a neighboring king, Katsa meets a man who is nearly her match in fighting, and discovers a mystery that threatens all of the kingdoms.

Is it any good?


This immensely satisfying fantasy, with echoes of Orson Scott Card's Treason, comes from a first-time author, but you would never know it without reading the flap copy. Kristin Cashore writes like a seasoned veteran and avoids rookie mistakes and pitfalls: her fluid and effortless prose sweeps the reader along from the exceptional opening-hook chapter, with complex, fully-realized characters, an original and well-paced plot, and a thoroughly thought-out world in which it is set. She even manages to make the reader long for the sequel, not by resorting to the usual, tired device of a book-ending cliffhanger, but simply by making you want to spend more time with these compelling characters in this intriguing world.

Though the synopsis might make this sound like a Grrl-Power screed, and there are certainly elements of empowerment here, Katsa's Grace is not one of them -- she despises and fights to control it. Boys, at least those open-minded enough to consider a book with a female hero, will enjoy it just as much, if not more than girls. It's packed with gritty action and adventure, though it's unfortunate that the unnecessary sexual content will limit the appeal to pre-teens. Nonetheless, this brilliant debut vaults Cashore to the top of the list of authors to watch.

From the Book:
Most of the guards gave her no trouble. If she could sneak up on them, or if they were crowded in small groups, they never knew what hit them. The castle guard was a bit more complicated, because five guards defended his office. She swirled through the lot of them, kicking and kneeing and hitting, and the castle guard jumped up from his guardhouse desk, burst through the door, and ran into the fray.

"I know a Graceling when I see one." He jabbed with his sword, and she rolled out of the way. "Let me see the colors of your eyes, boy. I'll cut them out. Don't think I won't."

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the idea of Graces. Are they

  • possible? Do they stray over the line into fantasy? Is there anything

  • like Graces in our world? What Grace would you like to have? What

  • would you do with Katsa's Grace? With Leck's?

Book details

Author:Kristin Cashore
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harcourt Brace
Publication date:October 1, 2008
Number of pages:471
Publisher's recommended age(s):14

This review of Graceling was written by

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Teen, 17 years old Written byMerlinFan17 December 28, 2010

Forgive my (spoilerish) ranting, but this is NOT a good book.

The violence isn't an issue in my opinion. It's a part of the book, it has to be. The main character is 'graced' with killing, she is a killer for her king. What bothers me is the horrible sexual messages here. I am a seventeen year old and I myself almost stopped reading this book because of how stupid it was. The main character, Katsa, is obsessed with wanting control over herself. I suppose it's understandable, one like her, with amazing power and yet caught up in the stifling box that is her life. That, is understandable, even possibly the 'no marriage because I will lose control' thing, but the alternative is NOT to have sex anyways! I can't believe a teenage book even has that in there.. At least a little remorse, a little trouble for committing the ultimate act of sin in our modern society and certainly in one like that would have been nice. Not only is that annoying, but the boy is almost portrayed as weak, and has a line somewhere like 'I'll take you however I can'. Seriously??? Ugh, this book is despicable, even more so because the plot could have been good otherwise.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written byKearthable February 23, 2011

Great Fantasy Novel

My English teacher recommended it and I loved it. There are some iffy parts but nothing that mature teens can't handle. The story is interesting and ending sweet. I wish I had a Graceling!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great role models
Parent Written bypizzarita9 August 26, 2010
Many of the parent and teen reviewers said the sex was vague or downplayed. I do not agree. My preteen was upset by the first sex scene, stopped reading the book and brought it to me, so obviously there was enough detail. He also wanted to know if sex is painful for women, an idea he got from the story. Do we really need to be giving young people this much detail in a culture where we are reaping the whirlwind of unrestrained teen sex? I also resent it that this book gave my child a wrong view of sex. Why should an author have the license to take what should be the privilege and responsibility of the parents to share? This book was how I found the Common Sense website. From now on I will screen books more carefully.
What other families should know
Too much sex