Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reasons for Rereading: Revisiting Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Recently, I have been thinking about a book I read almost a year ago. I first heard about it through a group of fabulous YA librarians, who raved about just how amazing it was - story, characters, writing, everything. I HAD to get my hands on it. So I did.

When I started it, I was completely in agreement - I loved everything about it! It was high fantasy with an amazingly awesome kick-butt heroine. I loved the world everything took place in and the writing really was fabulous.

Then, about half-way through, the characters did something I didn't like. I'd been just the tiniest bit nagged about a trait of the main character, but I hadn't let it bother me much. But then, just like that, they did something I thought stupid.

And the rest of the book, I was mad. I didn't fully enjoy the amazing twists and the beautiful conclusion. I couldn't bring myself to love it. Even though, I felt like I really wanted to. I felt frustrated and upset. How is it I let something so small ruin the whole story for me? I don't know, but it did. I only gave it an ok review. I put it aside, and forgot about it.

Until recently. When another book by the same author in the same world began getting buzz. I thought back on that first book. I thought back to the reason I gave it a blah review. I listened to other bloggers rave about both books. I thought some more.

Then, I blogged about my morally-tinted glasses. I wondered why sometimes having certain values makes you unable to appreciate certain books. I mentioned in that post the book I have just finished rereading.

All of this led to my rereading of Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I felt a lot of the same feelings that I did the first time, BUT there were some other things too. These next paragraphs may be a bit spoiler-ish if you haven't read it.

Throughout, Katsa insists she will never marry or have children. I don't know exactly why that annoyed me at first. After all, I wasn't nearly as annoyed by Katniss' desire never to marry or have children. When I thought about it more, I realized it was because Katsa had taken the seabane at such a young age and would NEVER be able to have children; I thought that having taken it once meant she could never change her mind. Katsa doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would change her mind, but I did feel her close relationship with Bitterblue may have softened her a bit. I know lots of people who never want children, and I think that's fine. What bothered me was the thought that Katsa made that irrevocable decision so early and then might never even have the chance later on in life.

After picking it up again, I understood that choice differently. I felt that it wasn't irrevocable, because seabane was not a one-time fix for never having children. If she ever felt so inclined in the future, she could simply stop taking seabane. I also felt like her choices with Po (though perhaps a bit selfish) really shouldn't and didn't mar my enjoyment of the rest of the book. I was swept up into the fast-paced action. I loved the setting and the characters and the fantasy elements. I'd even forgotten about several of the plot twists, and enjoyed those again.
(end spoiler-ish-ness)

So, I think that having reread this book, I was able to appreciate it more. To enjoy it again. To see past my (possibly narrowminded) issue with the book and really come to love it. So, I'm admitting that my first review of Graceling was flawed. I really did love it. And I'd give it an:

Overall rating: ****

Have you ever reread a book you didn't enjoy and changed your opinion of it?


  1. No, I haven't. I should, though. There are a lot of books that hit me wrong -- many for personal reasons -- that I realize if I'd go back at a different time and read them, I might like them better.

    But there really isn't enough time in this life to reread all the books I didn't like the first time through.


  2. I haven't done a lot of re-reading either. And some I just don't think I ever will. I guess it was mostly that I knew deep down that I liked this book and was just responding too violently to something relatively small.

  3. I've never re-read a book I didn't enjoy the first time around. I really don't like it when characters do something I consider stupid and not in keeping with their characterizations at all. If it happens before the midway book, I've actually just stopped reading.

  4. Belle, I think I'd like to be where you are someday, but I still sometimes feel obligated to finish what I start. I can count the number of books I've not finished on one hand. Seriously, too many good ones out there to waste it on something I won't like. I'll keep trying.

  5. Ugh! I feel so out of the loop with this book. I've been on the hold list at the library forever. Maybe I should just add this to my "buy" list?

  6. Suey, if the stuff I mentioned in these reviews would bother you, maybe try to borrow it or wait for the library, but if not, it really is a fast-paced well-written book!

  7. I'm glad to see someone else was bothered by this! I totally understand what you are talking about in terms of morally tinted glasses. I think its good in some ways that we are able to look at things with morally tinted glasses :) as apposed to us not being able to see bad behavior in stories! I think that it just means we're thinking critically about it. I was still able to enjoy the book and I rate high in my list of favorite books- but really, was it absolutely necessary to make the character proclaim that she was never going to get married or have kids? Really? Its like the author is saying marriage is poison or something. I also didn't like the choices she and Po made either. You're not alone! I have some major issues with the author's second book also.

  8. Anon, glad to know I'm not alone. Too bad we both enjoyed the book, but there were "just those little things" that bothered us.


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