December 28, 2012

Falling for Fantasy?



Release Date: October 1, 2008; October 5, 2009
Publisher: Harcourt Houghton Mifflin / Penguin Books
Pages: 471 pages; 461 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle ebook / Library; Hardcover
Series: Graceling Realm #1 & #2

Sum It Up (from Goodreads)
GracelingKatsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

FireIt is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her. 

Thoughts on Graceling & Fire
I was convinced that I was going to hate these books. Based on the cover alone, I'd already put it on my "no way" shelf. I think if you are already a fantasy lover, these covers probably aren't a turnoff. In fact, you might actually like them. But, if you're like me and a little bit afraid of the fantasy genre, these are not the most appealing covers.

However, I kept seeing review after review that raved about Graceling. People loved Katsa and Po, they loved Kristin Cashore's world... and who am I to question popular opinion? So, I decided to go against my "better judgment" and read Graceling. A few hours later, and I understood why everyone raved about the book.

There are just so many things to love about this book - a kick-ass heroine, world building that's developed and has real depth, a romance that builds slowly but packs a huge punch, fast-paced action, political intrigue and characters that come alive.

There's adventure, humor, romance... I can't even begin to tell you how invested I was in this book! If I had one complaint, it's that a few of Katsa's opinions felt a little heavy-handed. I have no problem reading about a character who doesn't like the idea of marriage or children, but there a few times that the opinions didn't seem genuine. I don't really know how to explain it - it just felt a little off a few times.

I know I'm not really saying much about the plot, but it's only because there is so much that's already been said about Graceling. I'm just here to tell you that I was really skeptical, but I fell hard for this book.

I immediately picked up Fire from the library because I just had to know what happened next. I was really surprised to find that it's more of a companion novel - I expected a traditional series where the second book published follows the first. On one hand, I was a little disappointed because I was dying for more Katsa & Po. But, at the same time, I appreciated the next characters and the way Cashore showed her readers a different side of the world she created in the first book.

This is essentially a prequel to Graceling. While there were some things I enjoyed about this book, I found it kind of frustrating. The pacing wasn't nearly as gripping as it was in Graceling - I easily set the book down and came back later.

More than anything, I didn't really connect with Fire, the main character. She just seemed like a more whiny and less likable version of Katsa. The characters and story as a whole just felt like a shadow of the awesomeness that was Graceling. Don't get me wrong - there were moments of awesome and I could see some more in there.

It was still a good book - it just didn't live up to my expectations. I'm going to re-read this soon, without reading Graceling first, to see if I appreciate it more without the comparisons to Graceling just floating around in my head.

So Quotable
“When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?” 

“Are you determined to leave me in this world to live without my heart?” 

9 comments:

  1. OH YAY!

    First of all, I'm a fantasy NUT. So, YES I love the covers wholeheartedly. Daggers, bows, and arrows. I also love the heroines and their slow romances. And the world-building - Cashore knows how to do it!

    When I finished Graceling, I already had Fire out from the library, ready to start right away. But when I realized it was a companion book, I actually threw the book across the room. First time in my adult life I have ever done that! After I settled down (a few days later - girl, I was mad!) I read it and loved it too. I love them both, and yet they're so different. I haven't read Bitterblue yet but I'm having a good time with the very slow re-readalong that some of us bloggers are doing. We'll get to Bitterblue sometime around March-ish, I think, if you want to jump in.

    Honestly, if there wasn't fantasy books, I'd be a sad, sad reader. I can sit down at night and escape the stresses of the day - not that the day is bad or too hard, but I can go to another world, one that is completely different than mine and fight with Katsa or Fire, or go on a quest in some crazy and awesome world, or do anything. It sounds so dumb and cheesy but IT IS SO AWESOME. And some of these books sound so amazing in audiobook, with accents and stuff.

    I'm SO THRILLED you enjoyed these, as they're some of my all-time favorites and I will try to spread my love of the Seven Kingdoms FOREVER!! Maybe you'll pick up some other fantasy books sometime in the future?? :)

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    1. I figured these covers were probably totally appealing to a fantasy nut - glad I was right! And I'm glad I didn't let me fear of daggers, bows and arrows (and fantasy in general) keep from reading this book.

      Cashore DEFINITELY knows how to build a world that seems so really. I just laughed out loud picturing you throwing Fire across the room. I was surprised when I found it was a companion book! I think I'd really appreciate it more if I left more time in between reading the two books. I didn't dislike Fire - I just kept comparing it to Graceling (which I LOVEDDDDD).

      I definitely want to jump in when you get to Bitterblue. I would have participated from the beginning if I hadn't read them so recently (or would have waited to read them until y'all did). Either way - really do hope I get to read along in March :)

      I'd like to draw a little heart around your paragraph about your love for fantasy because it's when you write things like that that you convince me to read more fantasy. To expand my mind and try new things. I'm SO interested in reading more fantasy, so you'll have to send me some recommendations if you get a chance!

      And I'm going to check out the audio versions now. You know I love a good audio re-read :)

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    2. I'm going to break back in here and mention that while the Graceling audiobook is okay, the Fire audiobook is even better. The reader has a beautiful accent. :)

      I think I'm the only person that I know that actually liked Fire more than Graceling, so I'm thrilled to be getting to that one soon in the readalong.

      Also, since I'm reading the blog backwards (as always) I'm still having palpitations that you bought Daughter of the Forest, which is just gloriously and deliciously wonderful. High fantasy forever and always.

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  2. Woohoo! I always love to hear that someone has been turned on to fantasy. Mostly because I'm madly in love with it myself. And if you like Graceling that means you're into High Fantasy, which is the most fantasy-ish fantasy there is! Welcome to my addiction. Watch out for the dragons. Also, very nice review. :)

    Cassie at knowsprose.com

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    1. I love this comment Cassie! Thanks for stopping by :) I was so surprised that I loved Graceling, but it also made me really excited to read some more fantasy. It's so cool that there's this whole new (to me) genre with a slew a good books for me to devour!

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  3. You have no idea how happy this makes me. Even if you didn't adore Fire. That you're loving the fantasy genre is enough for me! <3

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    1. Girl, send me some more fantasy recommendations. Let's keep this train moving and take me all the way to fantasy obsession :)

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    1. You should! They're really good, and I totally understand why people love them!

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