Jan 31, 2011

Audio Review - Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Published 2009 (first published 2008) by Playaway
Chelsea Mixon as Katsa & Zachary Exton as Prince Po

From the Publisher:
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, and in her case horrifying, 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.

Day in and day out, Katsa has to put her Grace to use. She is gifted with the Grace of killing and her uncle, the king, sends Katsa out to do his dirty work. When she meets Prince Po, she thinks that perhaps she has found the only worthy person to practice her fighting skills. What she finds is more than a fighting partner. Katsa learns that her Grace is more than meets the eye and even though she doesn't want to tie herself to Po forever, she can't possibly live without him. 

For some odd dumb reason, I kept pushing Graceling aside. To be honest, I think it was the sword on the cover that turned me off. Silly I know, but I have "issues" with high fantasy books and as a result, this area isn't one of my strong suits. I'm working on it! (For the record, Graceling is not high fantasy) Regardless, many people told me to give Graceling a try and when I saw the Playaway version at the library, I had to give it a go. 

Graceling is one of those books that makes you want to live back in the days where words like "crunk," "fo-shizzle," and "jank" don't exist. Although the vocabulary is made up of simple, everyday words, there is a sophisticated feel and air of properness that add to the quality of the story. In fact, it is what makes this story great. Simply put, Cashore has a way with words. Yes, the dialect has something to do with the time period and setting, but let's be honest, Cashore has a gift. For me, the language was the most special aspect of this book and it adds a lightness and airy quality feel to a book about a girl killer and her journey to accept who she is and meant to be. 

Close second? The sweet romance between Katsa and Po - hands down. Man, I was really hoping that there was something more than friendship between the two. When we see that yes, indeed, love is in the air, my heart made a little jump. Surely I am repeating others thoughts, but Katsa's decision to remain unwed and essentially free of the confines of marriage, I wanted to leap for joy! Katsa's explanation for remaining "single" was sound and, to me, made perfect sense. Why would she go from serving one man - the king - to serving another? Of course, Po wouldn't ask her to do something against her will, but for Katsa, she would be living a life that she didn't envision for herself. She never thought love or marriage was an option - only death. Po doesn't push Katsa; he accepts that he will have Katsa anyway she will allow. How refreshing! Yes, very unlikely for the time period, but the message that it conveys is extraordinary. What is even more special about the arrangement is that they had a meaningful conversation about what the other person wanted and expected. Does this happen in real life between young people? No, probably not, but it should. I think those scenes where Katsa and Po were figuring out what would work for them as individuals and as a couple, were beautifully unique. 

This audio version was a full cast reading. What does that mean? There was more than one reader. In fact, there were too many to count! Katsa (Chelsea Mixon) and Po (Zachary Exton) had unique voices, as well as the awesome narrator (David Baker). When Bitterblue enters the story (the tie that will bind book 1 and book 3), I was more than happy a grown woman wasn't trying to turn her voice into that of a child's. Listening to a full cast version was like listening to a play - just not watching it. The actors chosen were sensational. Each actor was so convincing and I could easily hear and understand the emotion behind the words. When I was doing a little digging around about Cashore, I ran across this video about the making of full cast audio version. Watch and be amazed! 

Understand what I mean? Amazing! If you have already read Graceling, please give the full cast version a try. Yes, it is over 14 hours long, but beyond worth it. New to the story? The Playaway version is the way to go! Check out Cashore's website for awesome versions of Graceling and the sequel, Fire!

5 stars!