(This is the third installment in our discussion of Graceling. Kathy – aka @thebrainlair – and I are reading and “chatting” about the book. Check out my thoughts with her responses here on my blog. Her thoughts with my responses are on her blog. We’d love to hear from you, too!)
Maria: First, let me thank you (Kathy) for making sure we didn’t end this section until the end of Part Two. I might have had a heart attack if I wasn’t able to read all the way through them making it through the pass!
Kathy: Haha! For our next book, we should check for those natural divisions instead of going by page number, which is what I did at first!!! Though, we made it out of the pass, it felt too easy that no one was waiting for them. I cannot wait to finish this! I only have the vaguest recollections about the final part!
Maria: I continue to love the relationship between Po and Katsa. He knows how skittish she is; he knows that he can’t dictate what she does or when she may leave him. Yes, she does end up becoming completely devoted to him – but he reciprocates so it’s not annoying like it is in many YA romances. She’s still herself. She fights against needing to leave him behind, but she shoulders the responsibility and makes the hard choice.
Kathy: They are both characters to love! I like that Cashore gave him a “feminine” side! They balance each other out in such a wonderfully attractive way!
Maria: I agree so much with this! They both have aspects of traditionally masculine and feminine traits. Love that.
Maria: I found myself making a lot of connections to other science fiction and fantasy in this section. The description of the mind-to-mind communication that Katsa and Po use reminds me a lot of the description of kything in L’Engle’s work (beginning with A Wind in the Door). Katsa’s abilities make me think she would be an excellent Aes Sedai (Wheel of Time series) – a group of women with magical talent who are able to control the needs of their bodies (like sleep, food, etc.) in order to get a job done. Yes, she can’t use magic, but those women would be proud of her control. She would also do well as a Bene Gesserit (the Dune series) – another group of women who have learned ultimate control over all their reflexes and minds. She’s part of a worthy history, and it makes me wonder if Cashore’s reading background included any of these series.
Kathy: First: I confess to never having read any of those books. I thought I was a scifi fantasy fan but apparently NOT. I promise to remedy that this summer. I will need a good list though!
Second: I just spent a few minutes looking around Cashore’s blog, and while she Megan Whalen Turner (have you read The Thief? LOVE), Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley and some others, I don’t see a big sci/fi but she some of the other names, I’m not familiar with or they are adult authors I haven’t made time to read yet! She is fascinating though and I just signed up to get emails of her blog posts.
Maria: Nice, I need to do that as well. Tamora is on my “to read” list, and I love Robin McKinley. I have her Newbery on my read list for this month since it’s a re-read and I’m doing Jen Vincent’s “reread in April” challenge. The ones I mention have been around a while. Wheel of Time has quite an interesting history - I can fill you in on that later :) Dune is definitely a challenging read - high school through adult.
Maria: I love the markings and rings that the Lienid use to show their family ties. Again – another connection to science fiction. One of the groups in the Battlestar Galatica world tattoo themselves to represent each family member. I really want to learn more about the Lienid culture. I do wonder about Po’s father, and Po’s belief that his father would use his Grace. This culture seems so family oriented, so tied together, that I wonder how Po’s father would feel about his need to “use” his son. Also, I find it intriguing that he’s a seventh son. Is there some power to that number in this world?
Kathy: Oh, I hadn’t picked up on the seventh son thing - Is his father also a seventh son? Will there be a book about Po? We get a little bit more insight into Leck in Fire, though it’s really not a sequel to Graceling, so maybe we will see more Po in the book Bitterblue. I ask a question about his father too! I wanted to know the same thing about why his mom felt the king would take advantage of Po. Maybe we will get answers soon!
Maria: I’d love more about Po! I seem to recall Orson Scott Card has a series about a 7th son of a 7th son - and it’s also in a series for younger kids (my son read it... Magyk was the first book).
Maria: I’d also like to state – for the record – that I made a note that I thought Katsa’s Grace was “survival”two pages before she did. Though the fact that this is a book designed for teens makes that fact a bit less impressive to me than it would be otherwise *grins*.
Kathy: Ha, one of my unvoiced unwritten thoughts was whether Cashore leads us *too* much? Or is it me reading this again after 3 years and several hundreds of books later?
Maria: I’m going to go with the concept that it’s meant for younger readers than us. So there are tons of clues we pick up that they may not. We have the advantage of extensive background in this kind of genre that they would lack.
Maria: The theme of parenthood continues to drive this story forward. Katsa doesn’t have a father – and so is more vulnerable to being used by Randa. Po’s fear of being used by his father drives his true Grace into hiding. Bitterblue – poor, dear Bitterblue – seems the worst used of the bunch. Breaking free of the cycle of use and abuse, that is a powerful story telling device.
Kathy: But why are all the bad people Kings? Why are they all men? Although Katsa and Bitterblue break free, Po frees himself by having his castle be far away from everyone else. There he can act as he pleases, though of course, the people he would want to share his newfound knowledge with, before Katsa, are not there with him all the time.
Maria: “Absolute power” and all that. Perhaps not all the rulers have always been dark (though Leck strikes me as always having that edge).
Maria: Okay, here’s something that angered me about Katsa. She falls under the spell of Leck’s voice quickly. She knew that there was something about him – a very powerful Grace – and yet her first response after that incident is to jump to the “I’m so stupid” reaction. Really, Katsa? This is honest, and it’s the experience of most girls (at least what I’ve seen), but I was hoping she’d pull herself out of that spiral.
Kathy: I believe she didn’t for one second think she would actually NEED Po to protect her from Leck. Knowing that her Grace is Survival, I think she figured she would be ok. I think the realization that she wasn’t actually trusting Po 100% led to the outburst. I think it was just a reaction to over-relying on her gift. On the other hand, if her Grace is Survival - shouldn’t that protect her from Leck because he was trying to deceive her?
Maria: Maybe it’s survival, not thriving? Leck wasn’t trying to kill her, just use her. She didn't have natural protection from Randa’s manipulation either.
Maria: Female Mentoring: Yes, I was a bit sad that Po was left behind. That gap, though, opened up space for Katsa and Bitterblue to form a deep bond. I’m pretty pleased with that. I’m hoping this will be explored more in the last section of the book. Katsa may not have had a female mentor, but hopefully she can be an effective one for the girl she’s protecting.
Kathy: I also address the fact that she’s taking care of Bitterblue, but I wondered if it would change they way she felt about having children? It was a great move on Cashore’s part, to get him out of the picture but how will she bring him back?
Maria: Yes - but his connection with Katsa has been shown to extend a rather far distance, and keeps increasing. I bet that will tie into how she gets reconnected with him later.
Maria: My biggest question from this section is this – what is it about Bitterblue that Leck wants so badly? Clearly she is not (yet?) Graced. How can she resist her father’s influence? Is it just the fact that she saw her mother hurt, or is there more? I’m even more intrigued by her since I know her name is the title of the third book!
Kathy: We are on the same page here? I also want to know if she’s Graced but can’t think Leck would know if we don’t since there’s such a visual clue. She says that her father threatening her and her mother led to them being able to resist him somewhat, they had to keep reminding themselves that he was lying. I can’t wait to finish this and read Bitterblue!