Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!
Today’s book is a backlist title I read for the first time years ago, and just recently re-read. I don’t often make the time to re-read books but I’ve been making more of an effort in recent years and boy am I glad, because this was a fun re-read! If you’ve not read this one yet, or if it’s been a while, then you need to make time to revisit it!
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Katsa lives in a world where kingdoms are always at war and some people are born Graced—they have mismatching eyes and an extraordinary skill. Katsa, with her one green and one blue eye, has a Grace for killing. As the niece of the king, she is often dispatched to do his dirty work, and she loathes this role. She tries to rebel where she can, but despite her physical power, she’s trapped in an unfair system. But when she secretly rescues a kidnapped royal, she finds her match in Prince Po, a Graced fighter who seems to see right through her. And as they uncover the mystery of the kidnapping, Katsa finds she’s more powerful than she thinks…but that they are all in more danger than they imagined.
This book made a huge splash when it first debuted in 2008, and 15 years later it still holds up. Katsa is physically capable and strong, yes, but her power isn’t in her ability to kill easily—it’s in her heart, and how she cares deeply about what kind of person she is, even when she believes she’s trapped. Cashore writes a really thrilling story of a powerful young woman who can take on men far stronger than her, but what makes Katsa’s story so memorable is the care that Cashore takes with her emotional arc. Katsa has to learn that there is power in holding back, and power in deciding for yourself what kind of person you will be. This is a fantasy novel that has it all—magic, royal intrigue, political machinations, adventure, survival, and of course, romance. Prince Po is a fantastic hero and counterpoint to Katsa’s hotheaded bravery and their will-they-or-won’t-they energy is so tantalizing. The stakes are high, and payoffs are amazing.
Graceling functions as a standalone novel, but there are more fantastic books set in the Graceling Realm (and yes, Katsa and Po make appearances!) that I highly recommend as well. My one suggestion? Make sure you read them in order: Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue, Winterkeep, and Seasparrow.
Join Rebecca & Jeff in the First Edition podcast to consider the 10 finalists for the “It Book” of August and pick a winner.