Trusting Minds: A Review of Graceling

 

“See you later!”

I moved away from the group, re-playing our conversation in my head. Had it gone well? I wondered idly. Did they like talking to me, or were they only being polite? I hoped not. Maybe I was too strange, though. Or maybe I was just overthinking things. I shook my head, trying to clear it, but how I wished I could peek into their minds, if only for a moment. How I wished I could know what they were thinking. What if I could?

Graceling is a fantasy novel by Kristin Cashore. When she was eight years old, Katsa discovered that her Grace—a magical skill endowed randomly on parts of the population—was the ability to kill. She became a professional thug; when lords or ladies disobeyed the king, she was sent to punish them. And so life went on, until Prince Po of Lienid arrived at court, searching for his kidnapped grandfather. Katsa discovers, to her dismay, that the kind young prince’s Grace is a kind of mind-reading. She wants nothing to do with him, but she is forced to journey with him on an adventure that will become greater than she ever imagined.

Prince Po has an odd version of mind-reading. He can sense thoughts, people, and animals in relation to him. This means that he will know when and what Katsa is thinking of him. Katsa senses an invasion of privacy, and manages to closer her mind off from him; but Po protests, asking how he can count on her not go off and leave him. Katsa retorts that he will have to trust, just like everybody else; and Po reluctantly agrees, feeling vulnerable.

Graceling powers sound amazing on paper. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to read minds, have super strength, or any other number of powers? It sounds fascinating—but what if it were true? Would we truly be accepting and awed? We might be jealous, scared, or even hateful. Would the next racial strife be against the Graced? Would we even trust each other, knowing that anyone might be Graced?

Graceling is an absorbing novel that will keep you reading from start to finish. But beneath the breathtaking action and fascinating characters lies a question about trust. How much does it take to be trusted? And how much does it take to trust?

High school fantasy, ages 13 and up.