When I heard that Graceling was being adapted into a graphic novel, I felt a mixture of shock and excitement. The first time I read Graceling was in grade six, when my friend Rick lent it to me. I believe it was one of the first young adult novels I read that really pulled me into the genre.
Katsa was a powerful heroine who not only could hold her own but overcome the evil of the people around her. Po was her perfect partner, bringing the calm to her storm. Princess Bitterblue was fair and strong as she struggled through many hardships. The world itself was solid and simple, while bringing the complexities of court politics into the light.
I read the next books in the series, Fire and Bitterblue, as they came out. I loved them even more as they built upon the world and the story of Katsa, Fire, and Bitterblue. The most recent book, published in 2020, is Winterkeep. I haven’t read it yet because I’m waiting to do a reread of the first trilogy. From page one of this graphic novel, the nostalgia hit me square in the chest like one of Katsa’s fighting maneuvers.
Understandably, I went into this graphic novel with high expectations. I wanted to see the world of The Seven Kingdoms come to life and surprise me with its beauty. I was not disappointed. Both Po and Katsa made a lot of sense to me. Katsa was described very plain, if memory serves, except for her Graceling eyes: one blue and one green. I’ll admit, I pictured Po more white and more elfish, but I didn’t have the diversity in my reading that I do now so all I had were my naïve assumptions. Gareth Hinds’s rendition of Po fits him very well, better than my version for sure.
I’ll give a brief synopsis: Katsa is a young woman in the court of King Randa. She’s Graced with the ability to kill, a skill which makes her a weapon for the King to use in carrying out his will. Though she has created a secret council to work against Randa and the other wrongdoers of the world, she can only help so much in secret. After rescuing an important foreign dignitary, she befriends Prince Po and discovers a dangerous and powerful force was behind the dignitary’s kidnapping. Katsa brings her secrecy into the light, and they set off in search of the truth, making friends and discoveries along the way.
The amount of care that went into this graphic novel is obvious. The illustrator knows this story well and put in all the right scenes. I believe that reading the novel and this graphic novel will yield similar impressions of the world, though you miss out on Cashore’s descriptions in the graphic novel. Don’t worry though, the artwork makes up for it.
Graceling: The Graphic Novel is a great way to introduce more readers to Katsa’s world. Younger readers or those readers who aren’t a fan of large books may find this a more accessible route to take. I will advise reading the longer novel before continuing on with the rest of the series, since you don’t get a great feel for the rest of the characters. This feels like Katsa and Po’s story and in that, it works very well. But Fire is about an entirely different person in a different part of the world and that’s a bit of a shock. You get a new cast of characters and new things to learn about. If you don’t have a better feel for who the secondary characters are, it’s going to be hard to follow and know who everyone is and how the connections are made.
I sat down and read this book in about an hour and a half, so if it sounds interesting and exciting, see if your local library has it! If not, it’s sold at a few major book retailers. It’s worth the read and doesn’t take a ton of time. That also makes it a great pick for the end of the year when we’re all trying to hit our yearly reading goals!
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