Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
I recently read Kristin Cashore's Graceling for the second time and... Oh! My! I was completely swept up in its tale all over again. It has everything a good book should have:
- A strong, courageous female protagonist who goes on a mission of utmost importance, and learns about herself along the way.
- An epic love story with a male love interest who is not threatened by the strength of our female protagonist, but rather encourages that strength and helps her to understand it and embrace it.
- A truly hideous antagonist, who must be stopped for the good of many, many lives, even though it seems like stopping him might just be impossible.
- One precious life that must be saved from the hideous antagonist at all costs, further highlighting the danger he presents.
- Wonderful world-building - I can picture these places clearly in my mind, but the story didn't feel bogged down by description.
- An interesting system of magic, with unusual applications.
- Well-developed and interesting support characters.
- A journey of survival that has all the fun things - wild animals, blizzards, bad men chasing good people, a boat ride...
- And did I mention the love story? Seriously, I cried several times, my heart hurt so bad. It was that good.
Age appropriatenessNote: I measure age appropriateness by the age at which I'd feel comfortable letting my children read a book. I think Graceling would suit ages 16 and above. It has one sex scene, although that scene is sweet and not explicit in any way. It also has violence and hints of atrocities carried out by the villain that I wouldn't feel comfortable letting younger teenagers read about.
Note number two: There are two other standalone books in the Graceling Realm, and I would recommend Fire for older teenagers, but I would steer teenagers away from Bitterblue altogether. It left me feeling quite traumatised.