I went back and forth on my feelings of this book from beginning to end.
On the positive side, there are several compelling, interesting characters. The main character Katsa’s growth and development is deep and complex, and her changing view of her Grace—a supernatural skill that a rare few a blessed (or cursed) with—is striking to witness. Her relationships with other characters are solid, and it’s very, very easy to cheer her on as the plot unfolds. Speaking of which, the plot is intriguing, and there’s a solid amount of action alongside political upheaval. Maybe not as much as I would have liked to see, but it’s there.
On the negative side, there is so much telling in this book. You will know every detail of Katsa’s thoughts, every single little thing that brings her to a decision. This will happen even in the midst of action, and more than once, I found myself a little bored with the narration. The plot usually picked up the pace shortly thereafter, however, so I was compelled to keep going. Be forewarned, the book definitely starts slow. The ending was also a bit unsatisfying to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something that just left me unfulfilled.
Perhaps the resolution of the main plot happened too quickly to have much impact. The true horror of the situation is very understated, and as the reader, you don’t get the chance to dwell on it until Katsa does a few pages later.
Overall, I liked the book, but I think I’m good as far as the Graceling Realm goes. It’s a nicely self-contained bit of fantasy, but I’m not interested in the other books in the series. Your own experience may vary, however. I’d say Graceling is worth considering if you are a fan of fantasy that doesn’t involve mythical creatures or wizards shooting magic left and right.