Batty About Books - Graceling by Cashore Part One

This is my 28th post for the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by!

Batty About Graceling.egg by mselke on Aviary  This is also the first post of a series - Batty About Books. Today Kathy and I discuss part one of Graceling, by Kristin Cashore.

A tweet is sent out to the Twitterverse, “Anyone want to be book buddies?” That tweet, by Kathy Burnette (a.k.a. @thebrainlair) was where it all began.

A flutter of tweets, replies, and DMs commences. Then a Google Doc. What did people do before all this technology? Can you imagine your book club being limited to just those people you’ve actually met in person? Say it isn’t so! Along the way we also discovered a common love for the amazing Barbara Gordan – otherwise known as Batgirl. The rest, as we like to say, is history.

We exchanged reading lists. Several people had been insisting I give Graceling a try, and Kathy was gracious enough to reread it so that I could move it to the top of my pile.

This, our inaugural Batty About Books posting, is our discussion about the first 115 pages of Graceling. My blog will host my original thoughts along with Kathy’s responses. Her blog will host her thoughts and my responses. We hope you’ll join in the fray, read along with us, and let us know what you think. 

Graceling – part one.  – Maria’s batarang tossed into the fray.  - March 24, 2012

Maria: Wow. Katsa is definitely my kind of hero. As I was reading I had flashes of Buffy, of Batgirl, of all the heroines I love so much. This was a wonderful choice for our first Book Buddies book. 

Kathy: I remember when I first picked up this book.  I was so excited to read a strong girl character and couldn’t wait to introduce her to a book club.

Maria: I love her “super power”.  I love that she needed to start her training with dummies to avoid hurting anyone. I adore the fact that she is more than strong and skilled enough to take out career guards and fighting men. 

Kathy: Yes! I like that someone understood her as a child with a grace and that she may need some help.  I also like that she is in charge of the group that rescues people!

Maria: I love her tomboy nature. Her reluctance to dress up, her discomfort with fancy clothes and good girl manners are appealing. While I don’t have an issue with a heroine who uses her feminine wiles as part of her arsenal, I adore the fact that Katsa is oblivious to such things. 

Kathy: Yes! We see a lot of the latter and not enough of the former.  Would love to see a character that does both with equal aplomb. I want a strong character (strong mentally and physically) who can throw on a dress, appreciate its beauty as well as her own,  and still kick some butt!

Maria: I adore the fact that the Council was HER idea. As the Council started to be mentioned, I was hoping this would be the case. So not only is she a powerful fighter, she is also a strong leader who can make things happen. I love her moral code. Yes, she can kill. She can maim. Yet she considers her orders carefully and refuses to step beyond the line whenever she thinks she can. 

Kathy: But will she be able to step beyond the line when needed? Who decides what the line is? Does she? Why does she continue to kill for her uncle? Why doesn’t she just kill him and take the power for herself? Does her grace limit her from harming family?

Maria: I love her discovery of the joy of having a real sparring partner. This is probably what I like most about Po so far. He’s dark and mysterious, yes, but he’s able to give her what she really needs  - a peer. Someone she can let loose with and not worry about damaging (too much). If I had to guess right now, I’d say I’m routing for Po to capture her heart. Which brings me to the…

Burgeoning love triangle: I’m a softie – a romantic at heart. While I didn’t really like the Twilight books, I do enjoy a good love triangle. Po is dark and mysterious. Giddon is her stalwart, quiet partner. Again, I had flashbacks to Buffy (and this isn’t a complaint). 

Kathy: I confess to never seeing Buffy. I know what it’s about but never saw it.  I liked the Twilight books on first reading but when I re-read them for a study on heroes and saw how the relationship between those two in a differnt light, I didn’t like it so much.  Though I loved Jacob’s character in Breaking Dawn. But, back to Po/Katsa/Giddon - when we met him in the garden and he had a hint of humor in his voice and he sounded smart, I loved him then! But, I don’t like triangles! I want everyone to find love! I don’t mind if it’s difficult and you have to work for it and and work to keep it, but I don’t want someone to have to lose. Especially if it’s basically a good person.  Unless there is something I don’t know about Giddon, I will feel so bad if he loves her and loses her to Po!

Maria: Can I give it to my students? I always (okay, almost always) read books with an eye toward deciding if I can add it to my classroom library. As of this part of the tale, I’m leaning toward making it available to my older readers. The book has one mention of the word “whorehouse” early on which made me nervous. Yet that went by quickly, and I don’t think it would cause a problem. The other thing that made me cautious was Helda’s short discussion with Katsa about the “women’s issues” she might need a woman to guide her through. Again, it was a snippet. I know the fifth grade girls have probably started to hear about such things, but I would want to think about this more before I bring it in. 

Kathy: I have to withhold comment on this because one of the few things I remember about my long ago read was the book club female reaction to some of Katsa’s words later. I would think a mature young reader would be mostly ok but I usually book talk it to late 7th grade.

Maria: Problematic: I wish Katsa had more of a female mentor. While I enjoyed the glimpse I got of Helda in this beginning section, I think that there is an overall lack of female mentoring that is endemic in heroine fiction. I completely understand why she doesn’t. It fits the tale well to have her fighting training be all from males, since her status as a fairly unique female warrior would make it tricky for her to have a woman mentor. Yet I still find myself hoping for Helda to take on a bigger role in her life.  

Kathy: I think I want to wait a bit before touching on this one.  I think this would be something to check for throughout the book... what stereotypical fantasy aspects, if any, are present in Graceling?

Okay… my thoughts completed. Time to check out yours, respond, and hit the next section of the book!

Check out my Batty Partner's post for her thoughts and my reactions!


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