K is for Katsa

Happy Bookanista Thursday! Today I’m excited to recommend a kick ass (K again!) book, one I should have read ages ago:

Graceling by Kristen Cashore

Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms, #1)

Love this cover!

From Goodreads: Katsa 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. With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

I shouldn’t have waited so long to read Graceling. I should have known, having seen the rave review of my friend Erin Bowman (who has exceptional taste in books), that Graceling would blow my mind. And it did!

Graceling reminds me a bit of Plain Kate by Erin Bow (fantastical elements, multi-faceted herione), a bit of Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (epic power struggles, shady politics), and also a little of X-Men, what with the Graced and their exceptional skills. Thanks to Kristin Cashore’s elegant and imaginative writing, all these larger-than-life components come together in an incredibly captivating story.

Because I have no interest in spoiling the awesomeness of Graceling for you, I only want to discuss one of its aspects, and that just happens to be one of my favorite aspects: Katsa’s character arc. Anyone who reads and/or writes YA probably knows about the call for strong female protagonists. There’s a lot of discussion about what makes a female protagonist strong (ex: Katniss) or weak (ex: Bella) and what affect these varying degrees of strength have on the teenage girls (or adult women!) who read about them.

What I loved most about Graceling‘s Katsa is that her strength, while very much present, is not at all black and white. Sure, she’s physically strong (thanks to her Grace, she can whip the asses of scores of men all at once), but inwardly, she’s kind of a mess. She’s fiercely independent, but she’s not in control of her bodily power — in fact, she’s afraid of it and the carnage it’s capable of causing — so she spends quite a bit of time doubting herself, her integrity, and her intelligence. But once Katsa begins to confront her anger and her past (thanks in part to the unwavering friendship of one very adorable Graced prince), she learns to trust, and she’s able to start taking control of her physical strength and get a handle on her emotions. A slew of external challenges force her to continuously test her patience and willpower, and Katsa eventually grows into a wholly likable and entirely powerful person.

And if Katsa’s steep and compelling arc isn’t enough to convince you to pick up a copy of this book…

That Graced prince I mentioned above? You will TOTALLY fall for him. ♥

Check out what my Bookanista friends are up to today:

Christine Fonseca gives a shout out for REGRET
Carrie Harris swoons for STRUCK
Corrine Jackson cries heaps over STORY OF A GIRL
Stasia Ward Kehoe loves up THE LIBERATION OF MAX MCTRUE
Tracy Banghart shares some CLARITY and PERCEPTION
Jessica Love delights in THE SCORPIO RACES
Hilary Wagner hosts a Guest Post by Author Aaron Kato on YA Voice

Tell me: Which YA heroine do you consider to be exceptionally strong?