Series are wonderful things when you love a book, and discover that there are more out (or more to come). There’s always the chance though, that the later books won’t live up to the promise shown by the first book, which is always so disappointing.
In the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore, the first book, Graceling, is by far my favorite. The original premise, the characters, the how-will-they-get-out-of-this questions? All worked, and all had me excited to read the other two books.
Fire actually takes prior to Graceling, and is only loosely connected. Unfortunately that connection ruins some of the surprise or tension that might otherwise be there. If you’ve read Graceling, you know what’s going on, and you know certain things that have to happen to set up events in the first book. Reading them out of publication order isn’t the answer either – then you spoil some of the surprise in the first book. Either way you’re going to be not surprised in one of the books.
As with Graceling, I enjoyed some of the characters in Fire quite a bit, as well as the setup. One of the big plot reveals seemed fairly obvious, so it lost out on a bit of a surprise. I would have happily spent more time in this world to learn more about Fire and her life.
Bitterblue is clearly the final book, taking place about 8 years after Graceling ends. It somewhat wraps up the loose ends from Fire as well, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you’ve read Graceling first. Overall though, I found it rather disappointing. I know Bitterblue is young, but she seems foolish and her relatives/advisers seem oblivious to the challenges that surround her. The plot drags and after finishing it, I’m struggling to recall what all happened in it. So dull, and such a let down.
Heads-up: books are classified as young adult titles, and I’d likely keep them for older teens only. There’s a fair amount of violence and brutality, and some sexual content, especially in the first books. Nothing is described in detail, but it’s either treated fairly casually, or is non-consensual, so I wouldn’t cavalierly hand these off to younger readers.
Would I recommend these to just anyone? No, probably not. If you’re a die-hard fantasy fan looking for a new series, you may enjoy these. But if you’re a die-hard fantasy fan, you’ve likely already heard of these. I might cautiously suggest Graceling or Fire for new to fantasy readers. The world-building is thinner than some fantasy tales, but that might be a plus to someone new to the genre who doesn’t want to dive into a super complex setting. In other words, you can finish the book and not feel like you have to read 10 more to finish the story.
Publisher’s Description of Book 1, Graceling:
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 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.
With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.
Publisher’s Description of Book 2, Fire:
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her. Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books.
Publisher’s Description of Book 3, Bitterblue:
When Queen Bitterblue took the throne of Monsea, she was a child, and her advisers ran the kngdom for her. Now she is beginning to question their decisions, especially how they handle the legacy of her father Leck. Bitterblue needs to know Monsea’s past to lead it into the future, so she begins exploring the city streets at night, disguised and alone. As she does, she meets two thieves, who hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.
Series Title: Graceling Realm
Author: Kristin Cashore
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
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