GracelingApril 1, 2013
Another reminder for me to cautiously pick another YA books next time.
The story begins with a prisoner extraction mission. This prisoner supposed to be an important plot device in the later story. The main character who lead the mission is Katsa, a royal assassin, a super killing human machine. Later, because of her involvement in investigating the prisoner’s case, she will play a major part in the destiny of the realm.
OK, now the critics.
Firstly, the blend of teenage romance and fantasy theme in this novel is disastrous. I would have been better for the author to simply write a teenage romance with contemporary setting. It just does not fit. The fantasy does not add any spice to the romance, and the romance is ruining the fantasy. I have read some Harlequin type historical romance novel which are much better than this.
I cannot seriously think that this is a fantasy novel. The magic design, which is the Grace, in this novel is laughable. The author makes it more like a mutant ability rather than magic. (Does not mean that being mutant is wrong, but it just does not fit well into the story line.) There are no explanation and exploration of the Grace, except that you are born with one. And the ability of the Grace can range from utterly useless to almost demigod capability. This kind of magic without restriction is really bad in literary sense, because the author can wield ANYTHING to solve any plot in the novel. This kind of literary device can be devastating, because it can made the character unstoppable. The only good thing I can think of the Grace is the struggle of characters with their ability. Even this is not fully explored by the author.
Spoiler about the Grace:
The Grace, which is the magic in this novel, is a bit unbelievable. The main character’s Grace, Katsa, in the beginning of the story line is a fighter. Which mean she has perfect body coordination, fast reaction, and power, which are an excellent design. But half way through the novel, the author somehow decided that her TRUE Grace is not fighting, but SURVIVING, which means she can endure any hardship, have a GPS in her head, and can make fire quickly, just to serve the plot because she has to endure the hardship of winter of a mountain pass. Why not make her immortal, and can grow severed limb! It is simply bad character design. Please, decide what you want to tell. The Grace of the side kick, Po, is also unbelievable. Initially, his Grace is some kind of mind reader, which makes him an excellent fighter, because he can predict his opponent’s movement. But suddenly he later become a RADAR man, that can read his surrounding without opening his eyes, just to serve the plot because he becomes blind! Please, mind is not the same as object. We call it an object because it is mindless! And we suppose to sympathize with him? No way…
The world design is also raw, without any clear distinction of region specialty, except that one is the north, the other in the south, and mountain and sea, and so on. It does not serve as a focal point of the story. In a good fantasy story, the world itself IS a character.
Secondly, the character design. The character does not really develop in the story. The job of the main character as a royal assassin is not reflected in the main character. The main character is just another teenager with self-identity issue, another common term in YA. It is also simply black and white, without gray area. It does not mean that black and white distinction is always bad, it is just it does not fit well in this novel.
The usage of single POV from the main character give us the reader a single spotlight, and the author makes her always being the good-guy (to be exact good-girl) part. It is boring, knowing that she is always right, and will always survive no matter what. If she seems cannot make it, somehow MAGICALLY she manage it, because she is a survivor! Deus ex machina. Well, maybe not always survive in whole sense, because the author makes her HEART vulnerable (surprise… surprise…, something that you always find in YA novel).
Thirdly, the worst part is the plot of the story. The plot unwraps too fast. It does not give you a sense of wonder and surprise. The plot twist is not really interesting. Almost everything is told in haste. Even the romantic part is not surprising.
The solution of the story is also thoroughly simplistic. It strains my logic too much to believe to much. The author makes the villain very strong, but defeated easily. I feel cheated. If the villain can be defeated that way, it is a bit non sense to write a 300 page story. Too simple.
I do not give this novel a ONE star, simply because it is not repulsive to me. I still manage to finish it, despite I will think twice to touch another novel from this author.
My advice, if you want a fantasy novel, read a REAL fantasy novel. Maybe this novel is just for YA fans. Maybe I am too old already.