Graceling: Graceling Realm, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Graceling: Graceling Realm, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Excellent and violent fantasy-adventure-romance.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 71 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some pointers on self-defense if your opponent is much bigger than you and how to survive if you're stranded in the snowy mountains. You probably wouldn't be killing your own mountain lion and making a coat from it, but other strategies apply.

Positive Messages

Katsa doesn't deal with her anger well at the beginning of the book, which is extra dangerous considering her formidable skills. She kills, bullies, and injures her king-uncle's misbehaving subjects because she thinks she doesn't have a choice. In secret she protects others from those like her uncle as part of a ring of spies. When she finally sticks up for herself and leaves the kingdom, she shows mercy to her uncle, which she found harder than violence. She continues to evolve throughout the story, prioritizing the protection of the innocent, especially girls who are preyed upon by older men. Prince Po, Katsa's love interest, doesn't mind that Katsa is stronger and more skilled than he is. He is the perceptive one who helps Katsa understand and control her anger and see her own value beyond being a Graced killer.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Katsa doesn't deal with her anger well at the beginning of the book, which is extra dangerous considering her formidable skills. She kills, bullies, and injures her king-uncle's misbehaving subjects because she thinks she doesn't have a choice. In secret she protects others from those like her uncle as part of a ring of spies. When she finally sticks up for herself and leaves the kingdom, she shows mercy to her uncle, which she found harder than violence. She continues to evolve throughout the story, prioritizing the protection of the innocent, especially girls who are preyed upon by older men. Prince Po, Katsa's love interest, doesn't mind that Katsa is stronger and more skilled than he is. He's the perceptive one who helps Katsa understand and control her anger and see her own value beyond being a Graced killer.

Violence

A mother is shot and killed with an arrow by her husband while their daughter hides from him. A main character with an arrow wound is seriously injured when he falls off a cliff into a lake. Ambushes where soldiers are killed with arrows, throwing knives, and swords. Only the occasional gory detail, like an arrow through the mouth that nails a man to his chair. Other ambushes where soldiers are knocked out and drugged. Girls sexually harassed and threatened by older men. A brutal fight with a mountain lion and near-death from hypothermia in the snowy mountains. Stories of a king who tortures and kills animals and young girls with a mention that he's taken an "unhealthy interest" in his 10-year-old daughter. More stories about how the king forced others to kill themselves. Stories of Katsa's early years where she killed a leering man by accident and snapped a man's neck at age 10 for the king.

Sex

A sexual relationship between the main characters includes some detail and talk of contraception and pain after the first time. Some innuendo.

Language

"Ass" and not much else.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main characters, who are late teens or older, drink hard cider in a tavern and wine with dinner. Prison soldiers drink on watch.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Graceling is the first highly acclaimed book in Kristin Cashore's Graceling Realm series for mature teens and adults that includes Fire, Bitterblue, and Winterkeep. You can read this book or Fire first, but you'll need to read Graceling before Bitterblue and Winterkeep to understand this world filled with corrupt kingdoms and kings and Gracelings -- those with amazing talents -- who live among them. The main character, Katsa, is a Graced fighter for her uncle, the king, at the beginning of the story. She kills, injures, and intimidates those who don't do what he wants. Violence follows Katsa even when she stands up to her uncle and leaves the kingdom, with only the occasional gory detail. A mother is shot and killed with an arrow by her husband while their daughter hides from him. A main character with an arrow wound is seriously injured when he falls off a cliff into a lake. Soldiers are killed with arrows, throwing knives, and swords. Girls are sexually harassed and threatened by older men. There are mentions of a king who tortures and kills animals and young girls with a mention that he's taken an "unhealthy interest" in his 10-year-old daughter. Other mature content includes some drinking and a sexual relationship between the main characters with some detail, including talk of contraception. Katsa begins the book as a killer with lots of anger and by the end of the story evolves into a person bent on protecting others, especially girls, and teaching them how to protect themselves.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byJoyfulheart June 20, 2018

Explicit sex scenes

The low rating is due to the plublisher’s age suggestion of 14 years and older. There is explicit sex scense where everything is explained... even the initial p... Continue reading
Parent of a 12, 14, and 16-year-old Written bysillywidget February 23, 2010

Wonderful adventure and fantasy, great writer

Warning SPOILERS ahead.....I loved this book. There is violence, but also a lot of discussion about how to avoid using violence. The main character is used agai... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byAlexia B. June 28, 2019

Great Concept - Unneeded Sex Scenes

I just want to say that this is a great story, very unique and fresh. I actually couldn't put it down for the most part...until I got 40% of the way in (ac... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 16, 2015

Grow up

If you think this book was inappropriate then don't read 90% of all good books. You shouldn't shield your kids away from this, all they said was she... Continue reading

What's the story?

In GRACELING, Katsa is on a secret rescue mission when she encounters trouble. She breaks into a rival kingdom's dungeons to free an elderly prince from the country of Lienid, then runs into another Lienid man sneaking onto the castle grounds. She knows she should kill him and escape with her spies before he raises an alarm, but as they fight she realizes he's Graced -- magically gifted -- with a fighting ability and she's intrigued. Katsa is also a Graceling with a similar Grace, only stronger. When she's not doing secret rescue work for her council of spies, she's forced to use her Grace to bully, injure, and sometimes kill for her uncle, the king of the Middluns. After Katsa knocks the Lienid Graceling out and races away, she thinks she's safe, only to encounter him again at her uncle's castle. Where is my grandfather, he wants to know, and why have you taken him? He's a prince of Lienid, and his questions just lead to many more. It seems the kingdom who kidnapped his grandfather was only holding him for someone else. But who? And why? Katsa would like to help the young prince find the answer, but first she must escape her cruel uncle.

Is it any good?

Here's a novel you can recommend equally to fantasy, adventure, and romance fans because it excels in all three genres and delivers an unforgettable female hero to boot. The fantasy world is richly drawn, a land of small kingdoms, mostly ruled by petty kings, who use those born with Graces, or super abilities, however they see fit -- unless they're Graced with something not useful to them like super-swimming. With Katsa, the main character, Graced with a fighting ability (and more that's revealed late in the story), you'd think she was invincible. That's until she encounters a cruel king who doesn't attack her physically, but mentally, with his Grace. Katsa's love interest, Prince Po -- whose Grace is also more than it appears to be -- is the only one who can help her fight him. He's also the only one who can help Katsa understand her anger, and the only one who can reach her emotionally. This is the rare love story of two independent souls who never want to marry, and it works on a much more intriguing level than the "happily ever after" kind.

As for the adventure, there are plenty of skirmishes -- where Katsa kills everyone herself -- and plenty of days traveling and camping in the wilds and on a ship at sea. And then there are two chapters over a dangerous mountain pass about as gripping as an Everest survival novel -- maybe more so when Katsa battles a cougar with her bare hands. Prepare to enjoy Graceling on so many levels, and don't forget to read the follow-up, Fire. It's just as good.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all the ways Katsa and Po are not a stereotypical fantasy book couple in Graceling. How does Po react to Katsa being the stronger fighter, for starters? And who is the one who says they will never marry? Do you read about many romances like this one?

  • When Katsa leaves her uncle's kingdom she says that "mercy was more frightening than murder." What do you think would have happened if she killed the king? Would the book have been more violent than it is already? Would Katsa have turned out differently?

  • Whose Grace would you like to have? Why?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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