Monday, October 12, 2009

Graceling: a book that took self-control to stop reading

I just read Graceling by Kristin Cashore!  I am ecstatic!  I am on an adrenalin rush!  I want to go write something great right now!  I loved this book!

Some reasons why it's great:
  • It's a standalone novel.  Yes, an entire story and world in one book!  I have no patience for series right now!  Bring on the standalone novels!
  • There is action.  Much is kicked.  Fighting is integral to the plot and characters.  Hooray.
  • The characters rock.  I love me some grouchy characters.  They tease each other.  You can tell they have known each other for long times.  They relate to each other like people.  I like them.
  • It has a sweet, funny, heart-twisting romance.  Wow.  Just, wow.  (No, really.  Woooow.)
  • My sister will like the ending.  Yes, I said it, ST!  You will not hate the ending!  (Maybe a little.)
  • It's in great company.  In a spot on review, Publisher's Weekly said, "Tamora Pierce fans will embrace the take-charge heroine; there's also enough political intrigue to recommend it to readers of Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia trilogy."  PW is so right!  I love both of those authors for those reasons among others, and I found similar things to love here.  Now I want to go re-read Turner's stuff . . .

If I were looking for a good example of world-building and seamless, organic plotting, I could start right here.  Too often, characters behave in certain ways because of cliches and tropes that have been established in certain kinds of genre literature.  They don't act like people; they act like characters.  A great author can take those tropes and cliches and 2-dimensional characters and turn them around so that the very same actions/set-ups/character relationships have meaning and are integral to the plot and world, so that there are people populating the world, and they do things the way real people in the real world do. 

For example, sometimes you might find yourself rolling your eyes because the young, male character says something wise and tender beyond his years, and you think of the times you've seen that (so many times) in YA fantasy books or romance, and you get to thinking about those guys and how it doesn't work for those words to come out of their mouths because it's obvious they're present in the story to play that role of the wise, supportive male character who will help the female character become empowered (blah blah blah), and then you remember the circumstances the actual character you are reading about in Graceling grew up in, and of course he said that, of course he would say that and think that; it's who he is, and you know why, and it practically breaks your heart watching them interact. 

I'm explaining this badly.  You should probably just go read the book right now.

It's impressive.  For every cliche (meaningless action or set-up), the author negates its status as a tired, pointless device by showing you how it is a necessary part of this world and by revealing enough about the characters that you know things really would be this way if this world existed.  It's just wonderful. 

I am adding her to my list of authors I will read no matter what they come up with next.  (In this case, Fire!  Also a standalone but vaguely related to this world.)

Have you encountered any authors who made you excited like this lately?


  1. Yes, well, SOMEBODY encouraged me to read Rothfuss, which got me very excited but is NOT a standalone.

    Anyway, I've been working my way through Butcher's Codex Alera series, and I have to say, I'm thoroughly impressed by the plot twists: I have genuinely feared for the characters, and been genuinely surprised by how things worked out, which I can't usually say.

    I loved Dianna Wynne Jones' Dark Lord of Derkholm for standing cliches on their heads :-)

  2. Oh, I love that series, too. It was a funny enough premise, but she aced the execution as well. (She's so much fun. :)

    Yay! Rothfuss! A particularly shining moment of anti-cliche was when Qvothe jumped, knowing the professor would save him . . . I want to see that bit as an anime, I think.