Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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Genre: Fantasy

I recently reread Graceling in preparation for reading its sequel, Bitterblue. It’s still one of my favorite young adult books.

Graceling takes place in a fictional kingdom in which certain individuals have “graces” – a grace being a special ability of some sort. Heroine Katsa has such a grace – she is graced with a talent for killing. Forced to act as a tool for her uncle, the king, Katsa acts out behind his back as part of a council she has formed to bring justice to the kingdom – and those kingdoms around her – with the help of friends and allies.

She soon meets another Graceling and together the embark on a journey to solve a mystery and save a kingdom, becoming closer and discovering things about themselves along the way. While there is a sequel and a prequel of sorts, Graceling stands on its own as a great read.

This book may not be up everyone’s alley – it’s a favorite because I love YA fantasy, has a strong female protagonist and has a sweet love story, all things I’m a sucker for even if they don’t come in a very original package. But as a whole, this is a great story. Cashore is a strong writer who creates interesting, original characters that subtly break free of cliches. Katsa struggles with her identity and her place in the world, all the while holding fiercely to her independence in a way that is rare for a teenager in love. The characters’ honesty is refreshing as well – they tend to face issues head on and discuss them, rather than engaging in the mind games and frustrating reticence so many YA fiction characters indulge in.

I highly recommend this book to fantasy lovers of all ages – it would be a great outside read for grades 7-10.

Teaching resources:

Series website:

Author’s website:

Kiscocast Kristin Cashore interview: Link

Sample essay prompts based on past MCAS Exam essay prompts:

1.Often in works of literature, the villain has the greatest impact on the story. In a well-developed composition, identify the villain of Graceling and explain why the villain has the greatest impact on the story.

2. Often in works of literature, a character encounters a situation that requires courage. Select a character from Graceling who encounters a situation that requires courage. In a well-developed composition, identify the character, describe how the character reacts to the situation that requires courage, and explain how the character’s actions are important to the work as a whole.

3. In many works of literature, a character rebels against a role that others expect him or her to play. Select a character from Graceling who rebels against a role others expect him or her to play. In a well-developed composition, identify the character, describe how the character rebels against others’ expectations, and explain how the character’s rebellion relates to the work as a whole.

Please leave questions, comments, book review requests, etc. below!


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