…Because I lurves my books.
And last week I read two extraordinary ones: a hot new YA Fantasy and an older historical fantasy, both amazing in their own ways. The YA was Graceling by Kristin Cashore, and it was one hell of a debut.
Graceling is set in a wholly fictional world where certain people are born with Graces, gifts that allow them to excel at one particular thing from birth. Cashore’s prickly, ass-kicking protagonist Katsa was born with the Grace of killing, a talent that isolates her completely from her peers and makes her the most feared weapon in the court. But a man with a hidden Grace of his own changes her life when he challenges her to question both her Grace and the purpose to which it has been put, setting them both on a path that will lead them to uncover a conspiracy that threatens five kingdoms. (Yes, I know that was a long sentence: give me a break. It’s been a day.)
What I loved best about this book, aside from the really fantabulous premise, was Katsa’s voice: the story is 100% YA all the way, but there’s this wonderful subtle change in Katsa throughout. She begins as a very solitary, prickly, and somewhat charmingly socially inept young woman, and by the end of the book she is much more confident, more at ease with people and with the Grace she was born with. That doesn’t sound like a huge thing on the surface, but it was, because the voice changed so gradually, keeping pace with the plot the whole way, and putting my writer-hat on for a moment, I will say that’s a freaking hard thing to pull off. Cashore did it with style, sensitivity, and subtlety. Props, I say: props. Pick it up, if you haven’t already. You won’t be sorry!
Book the second was another of the amazing Guy Gavriel Kay’s masterpieces – The Lions of Al-Rassan this time, a historical fantasy based loosely on medieval Spain, and so wonderfully chock-full of detail I’m sure I could read it another ten times (and yes, I do in fact plan to) and discover something new each time.
I’m not even going to try to summarize this plot, because there’s just so much going on, and this post is already pretty long. Suffice to say it’s (again, very loosely) about the fight for a Christian or a Muslim medieval Spain, and the storyline is just as sweepingly epic as that (admittedly poor) description suggests. The subject is definitely worthy of epic, and yet Kay tells this story through the eyes of a handful characters, and he does it without losing any of the important pieces– and also without skimping on characterization. Moreover, he does it with such depth and sensitivity that he makes this huge-scope-plot utterly, poignantly human and heartbreaking.
Which is why I love this guy, really. His other books show a similar skill. I’d be jealous, but that would be a little like envying Angelina Jolie for being prettier than I am: I know when I’m a couple thousand miles out of my league.
Anyway. If you’re looking for solid worldbuilding, a complex, tense plot and characters so real they break your heart (not to mention a beautiful tearjerker of an ending), pick this up. And keep an eye out for the movie, which I am kind of freaking out about here.
So there’s my take. I’d love to hear opinions –have you read these? What did you think?