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Graceling

Graceling - Kristin Cashore Updated 04/01/14:

I happen to like books which feature kick-ass feminist heroines and are light on the romance so I should like this book, right?

Yeah, but I don't.

First of all, Katsa acts like a petulant little girl throughout the entire book, not some strong feminist poster woman. Katsa shows very little, if any, personal growth over the course of this novel. Also, I felt like the author spent too much time trying to sell us on the following ideas: femininity is an idea forced upon women by the patriarchy, men don't respect women, commitment ruins relationships, marriage is a tool of the devil, and so on.

Look, I understand that some women feel that way, and I'm completely cool with it. I'd be lying if I claimed that I've never thought some of the same things during my lifetime. That said, I hate how the author seems to be shoving very specific views down my throat instead of telling me a story that challenges me to think for myself.

This book is written in such a way that it makes me think Cashore, the author, is using her character, her story as a vehicle to voice her very strong opinions. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily have a problem with that sort of thing, it's just that this book is being touted as 'feminist' but I fail to see true feminism within the pages of this book. I mean, I guess you could consider it a version of feminism, but it's not very inclusionary. In fact, it's a very bigoted version of feminism.

Other than Katsa every other woman in this book is portrayed as weak and dumb. So basically unless you're an angry, dress-hating, man-hating woman with an aversion to commitment there is something wrong with you.

News Flash: femininity isn't anti-feminist. I'm sorry but it is possible for independent, intelligent and stable women to embrace femininity without losing credibility. And anyway, isn't that the point of the feminist movement? Gaining equality without having to act like 'one of the guys'? I mean, sure, you can reject femininity if you want, but don't go around assuming that those who are feminine are pathetic weakling losers who do nothing to help the cause.

It just so turns out that line of thought is backward and does nothing to advance the cause.

Also, Katsa's view of other women in the realm is quite condescending in that she never seems to consider how privileged she is compared to some of these other women. Katsa's lucky in that she has the ability to kill pretty much anyone she wants so it's not like she has to do a damn thing anyone tells her to do. Despite all the crap she supposedly has to put up with, Katsa has benefitted from an education and she's also afforded more freedoms than most women because someone else pays her bills. She doesn't have to milk the cows or churn butter or become a serving wench. She doesn't have to prostitute herself out in order to make ends meet.

Girlfriend needs to shut the hell up about all that because it's not like she's doing anything other than making a-hole observations. Katsa's not doing anything to change the way all women in the realm are treated, which is fine, it's her life, whatever. She just needs to quit it with the judgmental attitude toward others who can't afford to live or think the way she does.

I could have handled Katsa's aversion to having a relationship with Poe if she hadn't had any feelings for him, or if she knew she wasn't emotionally ready to make any sort of commitment. But no, Katsa's aversion to commitment was built up do be some great personal strength of hers.

In the end it just felt like she ('she' being Katsa. Or Cashore. Kat-Shore?) was trying to prove a point or something, like "look at how independent I am. I'm not a barnacle. I don't need a man...except for when I needs teh sex. So Poe, my lover, sorry you lost your sight and all but I'll prolly be drunk-dialing you in the future, cause I am comfortable with my sexuality. kthanxbai." *sob* "Walking away is waaaaay hard, which is why I am so strong." *sob* "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrl Powerrrrrr!"

Yeah, because being in a loving, trusting, equal and committed relationship isn't a sign of strength. Strength can only be had by loners who don't like to commit because doing so will supposedly lower their self-worth ...ummm....I mean..."independent" people.

Also, it has to be said: The love scene grosses me out as much or more than the sex scene(s) in Titanic and/or Avatar. Some people just don't know how to write a love scene. James Cameron and Kristin Cashore are among that group.

One last thing: why is it that no one seems to have an issue with Katsa hitting Po, literally knocking him to the ground so hard that he bruises? All he did was voice his opinion, that's it. Had the tables been turned, had Po hit Katsa for voicing her opinion, you people would be unbelievably angry. I'm sure some of you would be burning Cashore in effigy.

Let's do a little more of this whole turning tables thing. Pretend that Katsa is actually a male character and Po is female. Okay, how much do you love this new topsy-turvy version of Graceling? Not very much, you say? Yeah, I thought so.

If you ask me Katsa is one of the least deserving protagonists. She's a violent, judgmental a-hole who shows little to no personal growth over the course of this entire book. I don't care if she had a difficult childhood, having a difficult childhood doesn't mean you have to go around inflicting the worst parts of yourself on others. Having a difficult childhood doesn't give you license to be an awful person.

Two stars because the concept was cool. Too bad it was poorly executed.