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Book Review: Graceling & Fire

Monday, March 4, 2013

I've been craving some good YA fiction lately, so I went hunting through all the titles you guys have recommended, and found this one was mentioned most (of the ones I haven't read yet, that is):

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

I zipped through Graceling in about three nights on my Kindle (hooray for library e-books!) and was later surprised to learn this was Cashore's debut novel. It has the easy readability of an experienced author, and I can only imagine how much better her later works will be!

Graceling is reminiscent of Tamora Pierce's work - always a good thing - with a healthy dash of Hunger Games mixed in. The heroine is "graced" with an unnatural skill for killing, and so is used by her uncle the King as a kind of thug enforcer.

At first I was a little put off by the heroine's name - Katsa - thinking it was a deliberate HG rip-off of Katniss. Both books came out in 2008, though, so I guess we can chalk that up to coincidence.

Graceling has the typical travel-quest and coming-of-age elements that you might expect, but with an interesting emphasis on Katsa's emotional self-control. She frequently struggles to contain her rage, which makes her more human and relatable, and her stubborn independence is almost always a thing to be admired. The romance is predictable but sweet, and parents can rest assured that there's nothing overly graphic in that or the violence.

That said, the midpoint of the story contains a grueling survival ordeal that had me almost tasting the snow and blood, and I found myself wishing for a little more humor in the story - or any humor at all, for that matter - just to lighten some of the heaviness and travel monotony. That's a minor qualm, though, and nothing ever became too bleak.

The ending was satisfying while still leaving one minor mystery unsolved, which I believe is addressed in the sequel, Bitterblue. There's also a companion book to Graceling, Fire, which I already have on my Kindle and plan to read next.

In all, I'd definitely recommend Graceling for anyone who enjoys classic adventure quests and strong female heroines. While it lacked that mysterious "x factor" needed to break into my top favorites, it was still a great ride, and Cashore has conjured a world I look forward to visiting again soon. 


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Update: Since I wrote this a few days ago I've started reading Fire, and I have to add a mini-review of that as well, by way of warning.


I only made it to chapter three, which includes a chapter-length prologue and is about 10% of the total book,  but I've had to put it down. It's much, MUCH darker than Graceling, and I'm kind of shocked this is the work of the same author. The two things I can't stomach in any form of "entertainment" - rape and cruelty to animals - seem to be a recurring theme in this book, with the animal cruelty already being more than a little graphic. (Animal torture was mentioned in passing in Graceling, but never with descriptions of dripping blood and squealing animals.)

I understand that the prologue is setting up the book's villain, which is why I kept going, but when I realized the main character has the kind of effect on people that makes rape a constant threat - and lives in a world where it is used as a punishment to loved ones, no less - I put the book down in disgust. Now I feel like I need a mind shower.

On a less offensive note, the world of Fire is supposedly the same as that in Graceling, but it's so wildly different - a world of rainbow colored "monsters" that were never even hinted at in Graceling - that I'm just not buying it. It would have been better to establish this as a different world all together than to expect readers to believe that Katsa was able to traverse all of the known kingdoms without hearing so much as a rumor of this place, which is several kingdoms in its own right and apparently pretty darn big. The heroine already seems to be a carbon copy of Katsa, too: blessed with unnatural skills, ostracized by society, stubbornly determined not to marry the guy pursuing her, etc.

The good news is that Fire is a "companion" book, and therefore has almost nothing to do with Graceling. All of the characters save the villain are new, so I don't think I'll miss much by skipping it. Bitterblue is the actual sequel, although I'm reconsidering reading that now.

When I went to Amazon to grab the book cover I saw that Fire is almost universally well-liked, so I can't say if I'm just overly sensitive (very possible) or the story gets WAY better after chapter 3. If you've read it, feel free to weigh in in the comments and let me know your thoughts.


PS - Looking for a good book? Then head over to my Book Review Page, where I've listed all of my reviews so far and also starred the ones I'd most recommend.

Posted by Jen at 2:00 PM Labels:

118 comments:

  1. You just have to read something by Jasper Fforde next. I'm begging you. I would start with the Nursery Crime series or the Thursday Next series. He is such a fun author. You won't regret it.

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    1. totally agree that is people haven't read FForde you need to. Fforde is witty and amusing and a joy to read. The Nursery Crimes are a great place to start very fun series. Thursday next series requires assumed knowledge of classic literature but it is great to see how he uses it. Just finished "shades of grey" (not the pathetic house wife one) and "the last of the dragonslayer" which are both YA fantasy novels.

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    2. I absolutely agree. Fforde has a lovely, quirky sense of humor. I found the Thursday Next books to be faster reads than the Nursery Crimes series, but I did enjoy both. And while a knowledge of classic literature is assumed in the Thursday Next series, it is not necessary. In fact, I went on to read Jane Eyre for the first time AFTER reading the Eyre Affair (I'm not really big on the "classics").

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    3. Yep try Jasper Fforde, I am a big fan of Thursday Next :)

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    4. Jasper Fforde is FANTASTIC! Jen, you would love his books!

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    5. Fforde is brilliant! I'm a huge fan of his, rereading the Next series now there's a new one out. I would recommend that you start with Thursday Next, just so you get the connection to Nursery Crime, and also because they are a somewhat 'easier' read. I found once I was into his frothy, fun, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour The Nursery Crime series come a little easier :)

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    6. Adding to those recommending the NCD (Nursery Crime Division) books by Fford. They're fantabulously fun!

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    7. i sixth this! i've read the entire thursday next series and it is awesome and fun and so very different from anything else i've read!

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  2. Admittedly it's been a while since I read it, but I recall both the animal torture toning down and the rapey stuff toning down. However, while Fire and Graceling are very independent books, Bitterblue is kind of the sequel to both of them. It has elements & characters from both of them, and is also pretty dark. You might not need to read Fire before Bitterblue, but you'd probably miss out on some stuff

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  3. I felt almost exactly the same way about Graceling (including the grueling ordeal).

    I have not read Fire, but I did TRY and start Bitterblue ... and stopped almost immediately for the exact reason you stopped Fire.

    It's possible that if this author tried a different villain, I might be able to read more of their work, but that horrible stomach-twisting violation evil was definitely present in BitterBlue from word 1.

    You are not alone.

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  4. You won't understand Bitterblue without Fire. It's listed as a "companion novel" but it's technically book one in the series, Graceling is book two chronologically and Bitterblue is the third.

    You need Fire to understand any of what Bitterblue is trying to solve/fix.

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  5. So, it is a companion book with kind of a major link (with regard to a person) to Graceling and also to Bitterblue. I don't want to spoil anything, but I would definitely keep reading so that you can see how it all ties together. It is much darker, but I think you're still just in setup page. If possible push through it. A part of Bitterblue will not make any sense if you haven't read Fire. I really enjoyed it in the end. I think you just have to keep going...

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  6. I read these over the summer, so my memory may be a little fuzzy. I remember liking Fire better than Graceling, and I don't remember being squeamish about the rape issue, although I also don't remember rape BEING the issue, so it could be that I'm thinking of another book entirely. That being said, I DO remember getting squeamish during a couple of scenes in the Hunger Games series, although my memory of those is much fuzzier and I couldn't tell you exactly what it was.

    All that to say - everyone has their own line. There are so many excellent books that I don't think it's worth wasting time on books that you don't care for. :) I haven't read Bitterblue yet (darn school!) but am hoping to this summer, and I'll look forward to your review as well.

    Apologies if you've read (and reviewed!) these before, but I would recommend:
    -The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (a little rough around the edges in terms of plot, but an interesting setting)
    -The entire Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (because AHMAHGAH so good!)
    -Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien (more dystopian than fantasy but SO well written)

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    1. Doubling the recommendation for Birthmarked! I got at a used bookstore and read it in a day, I couldn't put it down. I have no idea about the sequels (I didn't know about the first one until I picked it up), but I really liked Birthmarked.

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  7. I read Fire...It was one long soap opera and not in a good way. I don't recommend it. The issues you don't like continue through the whole book. You do learn about where the king in Graceling came from. That's my two cents

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  8. Nonononono... If you're going to read Bitterblue, you need to read Fire as well. It clears up some stuff in Bitterblue that is really confusing otherwise as to its origin. I read Bitterblue and had to reread Fire after that (I didn't like the graphics either), so you may as well get Fire over with. Otherwise, you may be better off not reading either, partly because (SPOILER ALERT) the main character of Bitterblue is very similar to Katsa and Fire.

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  9. You should in NO WAY read Bitterblue. In NO WAY at all. Lots of rape/torture and awful mind control and suicides as people began to be released from their spells. Bitterblue is a good character, she is trying hard to rule a very broken kingdom, but it is dark , with very little levity, and it left me feeling very disturbed in a lot of places. I really enjoyed Graceling, and liked Fire, but Bitterblue was very, very hard to read. It was disappointing that the series took such a very dark, almost unreadable turn, as I was really impressed with her first book.

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  10. Fire is a much darker book but the themes of Graceling are still there - Fire is a strong character and she's very relatable and very human in the decisions that she makes throughout the story. The goods guys and bad guys in Cashore's books are all like that - depressingly human. Of the three books, Graceling is probably the lightest. Just because it's YA doesn't mean it has to be funny - and I love the books because they aren't.

    On a related note - a friend of mine uses Fire as her "comfort" book and usually reads it at least once a month. There is a lot more to the story than rape and cruelty to animals.

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  11. Regarding "Fire":
    There is a painful epidemic of the glorification of rape and abuse in YA novels. It is disgusting.
    SO no I do not think you are overly sensitive. I think you are seeing what others have been desensitized to.

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    1. I agree with you, Bird Lalena, it's pervasive and disturbing. I was taken quite aback by the passages in _Fire_ that suggest it's Fire's responsibility to prevent men from attacking her. There's been a lot of chatter in my world lately about the continuing insistence by some factions that women must prevent rape by, oh, I don't know, not being female? And I thought _Fire_ did little or nothing to place the responsibility for, um, not being a male rapist of women where it belongs: on men.

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  12. I have read all three, and will admit that Fire was not my favorite - though nor was Bitterblue. Of the three, Graceling was my favorite. It seemed to be the one where she had the clearest vision of the characters and the world. The other two aren't bad, they just didn't pull me in like Graceling did.

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  13. Check out Sharon Shinn, esp. her Samaria/Angels series and her Safe-Keepers series (this one is definitely YA, or maybe even youth).

    Bummer about being excited about a book or series and then have it be so NOT what you wanted.

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    1. Love Sharon Shinn - her summers at castle auburn is my favorite.
      Try Juliet Marillier - she's written several adult fantasy novels that are *stunning* ('daughter of the forest' makes me cry every time) but her ya is just as good. Look for 'wildwood dancing' and 'Cybele's secret'
      Still stuck on Melissa Marr's wicked lovely series, though her new one is good too.
      Let me see... try libba bray's 'the diviners' - a first book in her new series and looks promising. Her other series (a great and terrible beauty) is good as well, though it's the last book that really shines.
      And *anything* by Neil Gaiman - the man is a genius.
      Love the books reviews - I've found so much more to buy and read. My husband is already bemoaning my enormous collection both ebook and dead-tree format lol.
      ~erin kristine

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  14. You're not alone in disliking Fire. I loved Graceling, but when it came to Fire, I felt it was too over the top and blatant. I persevered, though, and now I wish I hadn't. Blech! Anyway, Bitterblue, however, gets things back on track.

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  15. Thank you for these thoughtful reviews! My daughter and I have been using your suggestions for her recreational reading, and knowing about your issues with "Fire" will keep us from reading it. I don't need a teenager who dramatizes everything to read that. It's enough that she sobs uncontrollably every time she watches Anakin turn to the dark side of the Force.

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    1. Deirdre, that is enough to make me sob uncontrollably too! Sigh. He was such a cute little kid! ;)

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  16. I just finished Gail Carriger's new YA book Etiquette and Espionage. Its set at a girls' finishing school where the pupils learn to be spies - steampunk with werewolves and vampires. I think its the kind of thing you'd like, what with the steampunk and everything. :)

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    1. It's also basically a prequel to the Parasol Protectorate series, so there's a lot of backstory being filled in. I enjoyed it a lot.

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    2. YES YES YES
      Gail Carriger FTW! (especially the Parasol Protectorate--though what i have read so far of E&E i have liked i am just not afar in at all yet)

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  17. I can't speak to Fire or Bitterblue because I've only read Graceling, which I enjoyed. I think you shouldn't read anything you're not comfortable with. I usually want to read something light because there's enough negativity in the world and reading should be an enjoyable journey/escape. Unfortunately, right now I'm reading Wideacre by P. Gregory. I thought the reviewers were overreacting until I read it myself - it's loaded with incest, mistreatment, and murder . Next book will be fluffier!

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    1. Wideacre is the first thing I always think of when this issue comes up. I love most Gregory books, but that trilogy is insane. I made it through the first, with all its incestuous BDSM, but the second, with the main character unable to get away from a brother who rapes her any time he wants *for the whole book* nearly gave me some kind of breakdown! It's not sexual violence or threat thereof that disturbs me so much as freaky mind-messing in relation to it, and it can be difficult to know how far that's going to go, even when you can sense it coming, which isn't always.

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    2. Wideacre is one of the few books I've put down and will gladly NEVER pick back up, I don't think that their is one single redeemable quality in that book, and I can get through pretty much anything!

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  18. SPOILER ALERT:
    The worlds in Fire and Graceling are not the same but she weaves the two together in Bitterblue. The two worlds are connected through a system of tunnels they find in Bitterblue.

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  19. Graceling was my favorite, too, and I completely understand the YUCK reaction to Fire. But as others have pointed out, there's a LOT more to it than just rape and torture. Yes, those things do turn up in Bitterblue, but the story itself is truly worth the effort IMHO.

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  20. I really liked Fire! Not quite as well as Graceling, but I felt that Fire eventually becomes a distinct and very likeable character in her own right. However, I can certainly understand being sensitive to certain subjects and not wanting to hear about them in what you read for fun, so if you're not comfortable with the book don't force yourself to read it because it gets good reviews from other people.

    I do want to clarify one thing for commenter Bird Lalena and others, though: Fire is definitely NOT an example of the "glorification of rape and abuse in YA novels". Fire and Bitterblue go to some very dark places because they're dealing with some pretty nasty evil and how to recover from it, but never is it implied that the scenes and behavior described is healthy or good in any way. I agree that lately a fair amount of YA books, especially in the supernatural romance category, have love interests that display some very creepy and disturbing behavior that's written off as somehow being "romantic" (Hush Hush and Twilight, I'm looking at you), but that is not at all the case in Cashore's books and in fact I've found that she has a thoughtful, feminist take on such things in her books.

    But, as always, your mileage may vary, and just because I loved Fire and Bitterblue doesn't mean everyone will, or that they'll read the same messages in them that I did.

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    1. I agree with Kristi's assessment here. Mileage will vary, but I don't mind a book that shows how characters can fight past a bad start in life, especially since so many people in the real world have to do exactly that. Along the same lines, I appreciate the depiction of friendships/love that take such painful beginnings into account, and stories that deal honestly with how a person assimilates to a culture where he/she is deeply misunderstood or distrusted. Cashore shows us that Fire (like Katsa) is a bright, beautiful character in her own right, and deserves to be treated as such by the people around her, rather than being objectified or reduced to her unusual attractiveness.

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    2. I agree with this as well. I don't read books that make me feel depressed or empty, and I read Fire and Bitterblue. Graceling is my favorite, with Fire being my second favorite. I didn't relate to Bitterblue as a character as much as I did with the others. There are definitely dark elements to all 3, and if the beginning of Fire disturbed you so much, maybe you shouldn't read it. But what I took from Fire was her coming into her own as a person, and not being defined by what she is or who her father was. She stops being afraid of who she is and really becomes empowered. However, like a previous poster said, the world is a dark enough place that if you find a book that you don't really like or relate to, or you find that is depressing you, then don't read it. Life is too short to spend on books you don't like, just because someone says you ought to.

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  21. Agree with Jan about Jasper FForde - just the thing to give yourself a mindwipe! I loved the Thursday Next series (Book 1 is 'The Eyre Affair') just think, Terry Pratchett for the literary world :-)

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  22. Yes! Jasper Fforde is the way to go, mind-bending in a good way and plenty of humor.

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  23. I read a few of the Thursday Next books, they are very fun reads. I actually haven't read any of Kristin Cashore's books, but I'm always reading writing blogs and I came across this post about how hard she worked on Bitterblue:

    http://kristincashore.blogspot.co.nz/2012/12/pictures-of-book-being-made.html

    It's an interesting read because it's easy to forget just how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into the finished product of a novel, even one that you didn't enjoy. And I'm not judging anyone - I don't like reading about rape or violence against women either unless it's handled in a very delicate way.

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  24. I agree on Jasper Fforde too, he's definitely worth checking out.

    The other series I can recommend is the Girl Genius novels - based on the webcomic of the same name - by Phil and Kaja Foglio. The books are just as compelling as the webcomic, and very very steampunky, so should be right up your alley!

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  25. If you don't like it, don't read it.

    Read Megan Whelan Turner's quartet instead, beginning with The Thief. Great characters and no gore (but lots of head games).

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  26. I've heard of Graceling but haven't read it yet. I've added it to my reading list! Of course, the list of books I want to read is a million books long, but I will get to them all eventually.

    I don't know if it was recommended before, but I read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and really enjoyed it. It's a fantasy with a girl teen protagonist. It takes place sometime in the past and is influenced by Russian culture (some people complained that there wasn't enough Russian influence, but I liked it anyway). I'm awful at describing books briefly, so you don't have to take my word for it (Haha). But like I said, I really liked it and I'm excited for the sequel that comes out in June.

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  27. Fire isnt worth the effort but bitterblue is pretty good. It does explain in the end about the monsters. If you like strong advenurious females i highly reccomend threshold child. It is only avaliable as a e book on amazon though.

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  28. Have you read Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series?

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    1. Yes, and I loved them! Pretty much everything Westerfeld writes is fantastic.

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  29. Bitterblue can be dark in places, but I feel it also does a good job of pacing it with lighter stuff. Then again, when it's dark it's quite dark so I'm guessing you might not like it as well. I loved Fire though, when it gets going Fire is established as a character in her own right and works hard to fight against a lot of the darker parts of the world. As well, as others have said the world of Fire and Graceling are quite related, it just won't be evident unless you read all three.

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  30. Another vote for Jasper Fforde!

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  31. I recommend "Thief's Covenant" by Ari Marmell. It has a kick-butt heroine in a very unique world. It is a little dark along the sides of human gore in the beginning, but tones down past that (and lacks rape and animal torture). The story is well-paced, the writing was wonderful, and I could not put it down.

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  32. OK, I didn't read all the comments here, but in case no one has mentioned it yet...watch out for the last book in the series, Bitterblue. It is seriously dark and disturbing. I had nightmares for a long time after reading it. A friend of mine warned me that it was a dark book but I was so anxious to finish the series! She was right though. Yikes!

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  33. I recommend Mad Science Institute by Sechin Tower. The tagline is "A Novel of Calamities, Creatures and College Matriculation." It is YA fiction about a young geek girl who get a scholarship to a college program founded by Nicola Tesla. It has a bit of suspense, thriller, science fiction and geeky tech stuff. I've only found it on Kindle so far. A quick, fun read.

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  34. I actually liked Fire best out of the series, though I did enjoy Graceling and Bitterblue. I think the world Cashore creates seems quite real - and the issues she addresses, while dark, are done well. I don't think, at all, that the books glorify rape, torture, or any other nasty behavior - rather, they're treated as very real actions of bad people. Let's face it - rape is used as a controlling mechanism in some societies, and sometimes nasty people get in power and do very bad things to other people. If a person is a monster, he/she will likely behave in a monstrous way - and that can have a domino effect in a society.

    With that said, there are plenty of books that I've stopped reading for lots of other reasons. Rarely does violence lead me to put down a book, but I won't continue reading something if I don't feel a genuine connection to the text. There's nothing wrong with that - and I've found that there have been some books that I couldn't get into at one time that I later read and enjoyed. Sometimes I think it's largely what place I'm at when I'm reading.

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  35. I would definitely agree with the suggestion of Jasper Fforde! I love his books. Also, Terry Pratchett is a great author to try out.

    Side-note: try reading Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book". It is surprisingly lighthearted and you grow to love Nobody "Bod" Owens and his adoptive parents.

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  36. I absolute love this author! I was so excited when Bitterblue came out and honestly it's one of my favorite books. It's a great story!

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  37. I'll have to pick up Graceling and give it a read, although from the comments I'm a little leery. I'm working my way through your reviews list, but I had a friend give me a box full of books. I've worked my way through Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue, The Giver and Messenger, which although they're short, they're really good reads. The giver can be read on it's own, but Messenger is sort of the sequel to Gathering Blue. Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty and it's trilogy is set in Victorian (or is it Elizabethan?) times and has young women in a finishing school discovering magic and secret societies who fight over it. There's also Blindness by Jose Saramago, it was made into a movie, but I loved the book the most. Great twist on what we would usually consider an apocolyptic type of story

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  38. When I read Graceling a year ago, I loved it so much- which meant I had to read Fire. As I read it, I noticed the stuff you were talking about. Sometimes, it was almost too much for me. The story it self is very compelling and lets you see where Leck is coming from. Fire was a lot more adult than Graceling. Also, as the book goes on, Fire begins to differ from Katsa. When you read Bitterblue, keep in mind that it's about Queen Bitterblue having to deal with the terrible aftermath of Leck's 30-something-year reign. If you thought Fire was dark, WHOA, Bitterblue is a lot darker. Not only does it deal with cruelty to animal and rape (of children), it also deals with suicidal depression and other throughly unfun things. It's a worthwhile and well written read, but it is darker and sadder.
    - Rachel

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  39. I've read all three of the books and I found 'Fire' to be the best. The harsh bits get majorly toned down after the first few chapters. Cashore really had to set up the villian.
    And I do think in 'Graceling' there was a briefbrief mention of the world of 'Fire' but I'm not positive.
    I do agree that you have to read 'Fire' if you want to read 'Bitterblue'. The three books all connect together in an interesting web c:
    I found the romance in 'Fire' to be much more likable (you haven't even met the love-interest yet!!).
    Also, the main characters in all three books are similar but they are all sort of tied together so that could just be why?
    I would say give them all a shot, I found the world of Graces to be extremely unique and enjoyable.

    I read 'Graceling' then 'Fire' and then 'Bitterblue'. I think 'Fire' was my favorite of them all. 'Bitterblue' seemed almost political which dragged on for far too long and the love-interest was hardly an interest at all.
    But overall, I would read this series again, dispite the small stuff c:

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  40. Although not strictly YA novels, I'd recommend Peter S. Beagle's books, specifically Tamsin (probably the most YA of his work), The Last Unicorn, and The Unicorn Sonata. They're brilliantly written, and Tamsin is my go-to relaxing book. Also, I know these have been recommended before, but Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy is fantastic, with a slight steampunky feel, and none of the unpleasantness that pops up so frequently in YA novels these days.

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  41. Thanks for the warning, Jen. There's no way is be able to read Fire. I'd be sick for months.
    On a better note, I think you'd like The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. She started writing the sequels first, The Mortal Instruments series, which ARE good books. However, The Infernal Devices series is just superior. There is a ton of steam punky stuff, it's set in London in the 1800's and the imagery is just...perfect. I CANNOT say enough good about Cassandra's work. Plus, there's no rape, and absolutely no animal mistreatment.

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  42. Yes, Jasper Fforde! Everything of his I've read has been funny, entertaining, and smart. You can't go wrong.

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  43. I have to make another plug for the Mistmantle series! Totally adorable animal world, but completely rich and deep themes that I would sum up with the words redemption" and "restoration." It really is writing along the lines of C.S. Lewis, and my adult friends and I have been passing them around, with pleasure. : )

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    1. Oh, and Jen, you should know that the latest print editions of the Mistmantle series are by none other than Disney/Hyperion! You KNOW that if these books are now "owned" by Disney that a) you will love them, and b) there is a very good chance this means they might be considered for an animated film in the future.

      Go here to read the reviews on amazon!

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  44. I don't know if it's been discussed on here before, but the best fantasy series I've ever read, without a doubt, was the Belgariad by David Eddings. It consists of five books, starting with "Pawn of Prophecy," and I would highly recommend it to anyone. (No animal torture or rape that I can recall offhand.) He deliberately used every fantasy cliche he could think of, and made an incredibly solid, character-focused story. I'd also like to second the people here endorsing Jasper Fforde - he's incredibly imaginative and an excellent read.

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  45. It's interesting to me to hear that you didn't like Fire as much as Graceling, because I loved Graceling, and then I thought Fire surpassed it. Of the three books, Fire is my favorite. But as other people have said, we all have those lines we aren't willing to cross, and it's better to be aware of where that line is for you so you don't cross it.

    Personally, I don't mind rape/violence in novels as long as they are portrayed as bad, or in the case of the violence, only to be used when necessary. (And I say this partly in answer to BirdLalena and JessieB). The rape certainly is not glorified, nor is it, imho, "blamed" on her, although because of her monster heritage, she is supposed to be so beautiful that men cannot resist her. However, from what I remembered (it's been a while since I read Fire or any of the books) she herself learns the lesson that it isn't her fault if men can't control themselves (and that she should not be ashamed of who or what she is).

    As for other books: I would highly recommend Laini Taylor's "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" and "Days of Blood and Starlight". They are darker, but they also have many lighter humorous moments to leviate that darkness.

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  46. I don't know if this has been said before, but if you found Fire distasteful with some of its questionable issues, please please don't go near Bitterblue. It's worse.

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  47. I'd like to recommend Alysia Gray Painter's Wilfair series. I love this series and there's definitely no abuse or torture. :) Alysia writes in a kind of quirky manner so it may take some getting used to but we're all quirky here, right?! In addition to being a great author, Alysia is also a really wonderful person! She's very friendly and great to her fans.
    Here's how she describes the series in 30 words:
    "A late-blooming hotel heiress must steal a pool from the handsome cousins who run the motel next door. Feelings are felt, adventures are had, and cheese dip is eaten."

    You can find out more about the series
    here.

    (I apologize if this sounded like a commercial!)

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  48. I've recently fallen for Robin McKinley's works, particularly Sunshine, Deerskin, and Pegasus. Sunshine has vampires, but is so completely unlike the Twilight series that it's just so refreshing that a modern writer still respects the vampire mythos. Deerskin is a bit on the dark side at times, but its still an awesome read. I must warn you if you start Pegasus though, it's the first part of a three-parter along the lines of the Lord of the Rings. It stops rather abruptly, and the next part isn't due out until next year. Her other work includes a some rewrites of classic stories. Beauty is Beauty and the Beast, Spindle's End is Sleeping Beauty, and Outlaws of Sherwood is Robin Hood. Her stuff is slightly obnoxious to find though, as I've seen it in both the "Fantasy/SciFi" section and the "Teen" section.

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  49. My recent reading pile (ha! they're all on kindle, so it's really more of a list) includes everything by Lindsay Buroker. There are three series and a few outliers, and they're all brilliant reads. Slightly steampunky, pretty funny in patches and some nicely-paced action. The newest one was released last week (I think) and I read it in two nights. Also, the first book in the Emperor's Edge series is free on Amazon!

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  50. I devoured both books in less than a week and adored both. In fact I think I liked Fire a little more than Graceling. I personally felt Fire got much better and ended quite strongly. As far as I can tell, this Kingdom is hidden from the 'known world' of Graceling and that monsters were essentially killed off by the time Katsa was born.

    My only gripe was that the author seems to be anti-marriage and kiddies with both women vowing to never marry nor have children. Fair enough that women need heroines of all types but to make Both of her main female leads so negatively geared was a little disappointing. I recommend keep going

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    1. Given that about 90% of YA lit seems to be all about romance, ending up with your soulmate/future spouse at 15, epilogues with marriage and kids....these books are a refreshing change in that regard and a very very small drop in the bucket compared to the norm.

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  51. I will pass on both, then. I, too, cannot stand rape and animal cruelty, especially lovingly described. Both haunt me long after I finish a book.

    Try the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. SO worth the read, and no triggers. :) I also second (third?) the Jasper Fforde reccomendations, and give A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness a try (the sequel, Shadow of Night, is fun too).

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  52. I'd like to put in a quick recommendation for Amanda Hemingway's Sangreal Trilogy: The Greenstone Grail, The Traitor's Sword, and The Poisoned Crown. A boy starts travelling to other worlds in his dreams. As the series unfolds we find out more about him, his origins and his quest, until in the end the fate of two universes is at stake.

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  53. I've gotten some great ideas from reading these comments, but the one thing that has me laughing is that like many of the other commenters, I love Jasper Fforde - but I have listened to them as audiobooks, so there's "about the author" in an obvious place, and the only Jasper I have known personally was female...so I always assumed that Jasper Fforde was, too! Not that it really matters, but that certainly changes the picture in my mind! :)

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  54. I agree, Graceling was my favorite. I didn't enjoy reading about King Leck, and Bitterblue was rather depressing. However if you don't mind a little bad or strange circumstances, I would sugggest the Books of Bayern series by Shannon Hale. They are "The Goose Girl," "Enna Burning," "River Secrets," and "Forest Born." All excellent stories and happy endings all around (which is my favorite part!). Enjoy!

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  55. I very much recommend Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I haven't read anything by either of them apart from this, and I love it. It's hilarious in places, but also very touching. And no cruelty to animals or rape to be seen!

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  56. I liked Graceling for the fact that the main characters actually figured out the plot twist without dragging it out FOREVER! I hate it when an author drags out a very obvious 'secret' and no one in the novel can figure it out before it's revealed. It makes me wonder about the intelligence of the characters I'm supposed to be rooting for. However, the book wasn't really my style overall, so thank you for posting and I'll pass on the next two.

    Megan Whalen Turner's 'Thief' series, which I found through a recommendation on your first book review post, is extremely well-writte and well-plotted. I have since bought every book in the series (which is rare for me since I only buy a book in any form if I plan on re-reading it a lot).

    I also recommend another series mentioned by a commenter on your first book post - Meredith Ann Pierce and her 'Darkangel' trilogy. I liked the ending, although some people may not agree (it reminds me of Frodo's final words to Sam in LOTR - the book, not the movie). I'll be honest that I remember the books being a little less in-depth than I would like, but the overall story is strong and made an impression on me even if some of the quests were too easy and some of the middle book plotting was a little too obvious.

    Finally, I want to thank you so much for everything you do. Cakewrecks, Epbot, and the book reviews have introduced me to so many wonderful things I never would have found on my own. You're great (John's great, your helpers are great and your commenters are great!) and it's all appreciated so much!

    Sara Kay

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  57. I would also like to add my vote to read the Jasper Fforde books, my favorite were the Eyre Affair series. And though I looove Robin McKinley and would freely recommend most of her books, stay far far away from Deerskin. Not only is there rape, but it's her own father! Talk about needing a mind shower. Yuck. But any of her YA novels are perfectly safe and harmless and riveting. The Blue Sword was my favorite.

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  58. If I see Graceling I might pick it up, but I'll avoid the other two.

    Jen, did I ever recommend "A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Libba Bray? Seriously awesome...takes place in late Victorian Era, the main character is a girl about 16 years old whose mother is killed while they're living in India (her father is stationed there) and she moves back to England to a "finishing school." There's magic, another world, and a girl who is struggling to find out who she is and will be and is very human, complicated, etc. There are three books altogether and I couldn't stand it until I had all three read.

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  59. So, it sounds like you had people recommend things, which worked out well for you. :) But, I'll just add, if you liked Graceling, try Seer and the Sword (followed by the rest of her series), by Victoria Hanley. It's pure gold.

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  60. To the poster who suggested Shannon Hale, she is awesome and should be read more. She also wrote Princess Academy which has a silly title but a sweet and surprising story.

    Jen, I haven't read Fire, but if you find it upsetting, I would stop. Nothing I have heard about it suggests it gets lighter as the book goes on.

    I did read Graceling, though, and struggled to like it. I loved how the author seemed so well established in her world, the graces and how they manifested in a person, and how Katsa was attempting to reclaim her humanity. The mountain passage was harrowing, and I became attached to Bitterblue, so I may try to read the rest of the series to catch up with her.

    What I didn't like, however, was the representation of men in the story. With the exception of Po (and his Edward Cullen grace) and his family, her cousin and his assistant, and a father figure early in the story who is old and powerless, every male character - from the king, to her friends, to travelling bandits - is some form of greedy, controlling, abusive, potential rapist.

    The women don't fare much better. They are pretty much victims waiting to happen, with the exception of Katsa, who is above victimization because she has nothing to do with silly, feminine roles. Maybe I'm over sensitive to this, but I was hoping to see a female lead who was strong on her own, and not because everyone else is either weak or scum.

    Jen, if I'm wrong here, as you and everyone else seemed to really like Graceling, can someone explain it to me? I was really looking forward to this series and would like to try to finish it out.

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  61. I'm now furtively looking up books on Amazon. And, btw, who thinks that Jasper Fforde's picture looks like Hugh Jackman?

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  62. It's not a new novel, but Philip Reeves' Larklight was my first introducion to steampunk. It's a kid's novel, but lots of fun. There's space travel, aliens, a touch of romance and mystery from memory :)

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  63. I am not sure if it is really your thing, but the last YA book I got really hooked on was "The Fault In Our Stars" by John Green.

    Upon first glance, the subject matter is depressing. The story follows two teenagers who meet at a support group for cancer survivors. Having said that, it is told from the perspective of the female character and it really is a delightful read that will have you laughing, crying in equal measure. It is a beautiful read and I highly suggest it.

    I also would like to put a vote in for "The Inheritance Cycle". It is really difficult to believe they were written by a High School age author! The other books I would recommend for a "warm, fuzzy, feelgood factor" is "The Three Sisters" trilogy by Nora Roberts. These are not YA, but at the same time, they are not so adult or chilling that the details in the story telling will have you hiding behind the nearest cushion!

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  64. I read Graceling and it was good. I think I read Bitterblue, but I honestly don't remember now. I too love YA fiction and my newest favorites are The False Prince and The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen. There will be more in the series. Good action stories, interesting twists, and lots of wry humor. I stayed up much too late one night to finish The False Prince.

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  65. I think for you to review Fire before reading it fully beyond a simple heads up of the different "rating" level, is unfair. I really enjoyed Fire and though it was graphic and confusing at the beginning, it became much lighter and very clearly connected to Graceling. Please, in the future, consider what you say before slamming a book you haven't read.

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  66. Has anyone else here read "The Kingdom of Ohio" by Matthew Flaming? It was a lovely little time-travel, alternate history, love story sort of novel. I picked it up at an airport bookstore and enjoyed it, but I've never met anyone else who's even heard of it. You might like it, Jen--it's not YA, and part of it is done as though it's a history text with footnotes which I found an interesting approach.
    Anyone else here like it?

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  67. Loved all three books. I hope she writes a new book soon! Fire was a bit darker than Graceling, although Graceling wasn't exactly light-hearted to begin with considering Katsa killed her relative while she was still a child because he'd been trying to sexually assault her and she was being used as her uncle's enforcer, forced to beat up people he disagreed with. Bitterblue is definitely darker than both previous books. But the characters are intriguing and I keep re-reading them.

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  68. If you haven't already read the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey, I highly recommend it - very addictive. They should be read in chronological order though, not publication order; they make a lot more sense that way. If you want a crib sheet, let me know and I'll e-mail it to you - there are a lot of books in the series, too many to list here.
    Mercedes has also put out a YA series with Rosemary Edgehill called The Shadow Grail: Book 1, Legacies and Book 2, Conspiracies are already out; book 3, Sacrifices, is going to be released in April and there's one more after that.
    And finally, Kathy Reichs, author of the Tempe Brennan forensic books, has put out a YA series whose protagonist is Tempe's niece Tory. The three books out so far are Virals, Seizure and Code (which I devoured last night). As the daughter of two librarians, I had no choice but to become a voracious reader and I could go on and on, but instead I think I'll go see out some of the recommendations here and add to my collection. Happy reading!

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  69. I can't remember if I posted on your original book recommendations post but I cannot say enough good things about the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain. I absolutely LOVED these books and cannot wait for the next one to come out. The heroine of the book is Karigan (what is it with the "Ka" names - Karigan, Katnis, Katsa; just realized that!) and it follows the typical girl on a quest but it's not heavy on the romance. It's nice reading about a female character who is living her life instead of wondering how she should fix her hair so a boy will notice her. I like romance, I just prefer it when it's not the focus of the book. I've read Tamora Pierce's Immortals series and enjoyed them but Green Rider is hands down my favorite. So far there are four books in the series and she's currently working on Book 5.

    I also read Graceling which I really enjoyed along with Fire and Bitterblue. I understand where some of the darker subject matter would bother you. I do think you'll enjoy Fire, maybe try to skim over the parts that upset you. As others said, once they set up the story that part of it settles down.

    Other series I've enjoyed recently were Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Maggie Stiefvater's Books of Faerie series (Lament and Ballad) and her Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Shiver, Linger, Forever) although my favorite Maggie Stiefvater book is Scorpio Races. I have a thing for book series and love nothing better to realize that the book I just raced to finish because it was so good has more behind it! Oh, I also enjoyed the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. If you liked Divergent you might enjoy this series as well.

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    1. I LOVE the Green Rider series as well and would add my high recommendation for these books. I was actually reading through all of the comments to see if someone else recommended them before I threw in my two cents about it, and I am glad that I did! The worst part about the series is how long it takes for the next one to be published. However, if you enjoy animals and/or horses, you will like how the horses in her stories are practically their own characters without being actually "humanized." I seriously cannot rave enough about these books. I have re-read each of them several times since I got my hands on the first one 10+ years ago (thank the Lord for best friends with good taste in books). Definitely try to add these to your list!

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  70. I checked out Fire on my Kindle from the library (haven't read Graceling, but it was unavailable). I was unnerved by the general dark and violent tone of the whole book. BUT - was anyone else just overwhelmed by the never-ending descriptions of Fire's menstrual cycle? I mean, HOLY COW, how many times do we have to hear about it? A few less-graphic mentions would have been sufficient in my opinion.

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  71. If you haven't read Lauren Oliver's trilogy that includes Delirium, Pandemonium and now Requiem, I highly highly recommend them. Delirium isn't quite as good as Pandemonium and Requiem just came out today. Lauren Oliver has a great hand with a turn of phrase, and really captures the late teen 'angst' well. And Pandemonium totally had me trapped in a 'driveway moment' at the end. These books are right under Hunger Games for me.

    Non YA but still post-apocalyptic that I recently enjoyed was "The Dog Stars". Another author who really can *write*.

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  72. Agree with those who've said that Fire is definitely not glorifying rape - these are strongly feminist books that take a pretty raw look at how men can treat women cruelly. But definitely, everyone is correct that a) Bitterblue is the darkest of the series, more even than Fire (although really, Graceling is pretty dark considering Katsa is forced into murder) and b) you must read Fire to read Bitterblue. They're a trilogy.

    Honestly, what constitutes "too dark" is very personal. I found the Hunger Games trilogy incredibly upsetting, much more than the Graceling trilogy. Also, if you haven't yet read the second book in Megan Whalen Turner's Thief series, I found that darker than the Graceling books. YMMV, obviously, but it's a pretty dark love story.

    Shannon Hale is great - my favourite is Book of a Thousand Days. So are Sharon Shinn and Juliet Marillier, two of my favourite writers. Some other good YA fantasy I've read lately:
    - Entwined by Heather Dixon, a really cute and fun retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses
    - The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, a classic and a great version of Tam Lin/Thomas the Rhymer
    - The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, a fairly standard YA love story/fantasy involving horse races with dangerous kelpies. I've heard really good things about The Raven Boys, too.
    - Have you read Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel/Court Duel? A classic of the genre, with plenty of action and court intrigue and romance

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    1. Oh my god, The Perilous Gard is one of my favorite novels ever, and I was sure I was one of the only people to have ever read it. I found it when I was a teenager at a book sale at school, in one of those "fantasy series" editions, and still reread it every so often. Such a great protagonist for a young, shy teenager to identify with.

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  73. Hi, this will probably get lost in among everything else, but you MUST read "Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld, and series.

    It is WW1 steampunkesque, with Germany/Austria-Hungary the 'Clankers' with steam engine machinery walkers, and Britain/France/Russia as 'Darwinists' who have engineered animals to accomplish things.

    Then, there is a girl disguised as a boy to join the airforce, because she loves being in the air, and an undercover Austrian prince, and so forth. It would be really cool to hear what you think of them!

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  74. Read the books back in 2009 and I have to say I wasn't happy. I understand that for you, Jen, there wasn't much "overly graphic" material in the books, but for myself who was around the age 13-14 at the time, I was EXTREMELY disappointed in the contents regarding the "romance" in both book. Maybe it's jut my personal standards and limits when it comes to romance in books, but I thought that what was included was more than a "healthy dosage" of physical interaction between love interests. That being said that might just be me, but I still think parents should be warned this is a series more for the 15+ audience.

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  75. Bitterblue is the best of the three, IMO. Don't stop now.

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  76. I thought Graceling was ok, but somewhat forgetable. The themes in Fire wouldn't have bothered me as much if it were a better written book which really dealt with them well.

    Jen, I think you would love Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword (and the prequal, which should be read after it, The Hero and the Crown). McKinley is such a fabulous writer (and one who can handle dark, difficult subject with tremendous grace and power, as she does with incestuous rape in Deerskin, which is a beautiful, powerful book that I never recommend without a head's up).

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  77. First, I would suggest you check out the website pixelofink.com if you aren't already a follower. Lots of free and low cost books for Kindles I too love to download ebooks from the library, but they switched to a new system here in Tampa and they don't have a lot of popular titles. I read one that I think you would really enjoy Wearing the Cape by Marion Harmon. It's the first of three of the series. Well written, the heroine has a high moral value, some mild violence, less then most comic books. Reading Tankbread now by Paul Mannering. It's a book about zombies, might be a little strong for you, but if you get it for free and you decide you don't like it, it's no great loss.

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  78. Just a heads up. Jim Butcher is cooking up a steampunk series. I love everything he does and while I am filled with trepidation at anything with a name like "The Aeronauts Windlass" it's Butcher so I'll try it.
    If you haven't touched his Codex Alera series or his incredibly successful Dresden Files series I HIGHLY recommend it. It's not exactly YA, but it almost reads like it, except for the length.

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  79. Ok so I have to recommend the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. I saw the movie first (I think its still out) and then someone told me it was based on a book. The main character is a teenage boy who falls in love with girl who is not mortal and has powers. The setting is in the south which gives the books a certain quirkiness which I find very likeable. The best part is the books aren't very graphic or sexual so they can be read by a wide audience.
    -StarGazer

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  80. I also shy away from descriptions of violence (and raunchy sex scenes). I went back and looked through comments on a few of your other book review posts, and I didn't see what is probably my favorite fantasy series of all time, The Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon. The heroine is complex and fascinating, and all of her reactions are dead-on. I especially like her relationship with her brother (who gets his own book in the quartet) and her approach to romance, which actually resembles the way people interact with other people. I am a fast reader, so the length of the series was appreciated-- there are four hefty books. The author is Australian, and the first book was published under a different title in Australia than in the US, so the books are: The Naming/The Gift, The Riddle, The Crow, and The Singing.

    Also, I've read The Night Circus three times so far. It's excellent.

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  81. Rather than being "overly" sensitive, you have your own level of sensitivity, which I imagine can change depending on what's going on in your life. If others aren't bothered by things which bother you, that doesn't make you (or them) wrong, too sensitive, etc. You are you. It's fine for you to create a life that works for you, to define your own priorities, and to include or exclude things based on those priorities. What makes you shine? Do that. Don't do what doesn't. (Unless you wanna, on the way to a goal or something like that)

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  82. I think the insistance that books be happy and cheerful is a little silly. I just read "The Book Thief" which is also an YA book, about a girl who lives in Nazi Germany during WWII and hides a Jewish man in her basement. It is told from the first person perspective of Death. It is not always easy to read, but it is truly one of the most memorable, moving and beautiful stories I have ever read. I recommend it highly. I do understand wanting your free time literature to be easy reading, if that's your thing. But it's a bit tiring to see great books constantly put down because of your delicate sensibilities. There is no light without darkness, and wanting only cheery and gentle books means you are missing out on some amazing stories. (Also, seriously, you read "Hunger Games" but the themes in "Fire" and Terry Pratchett's "Tiffany" series were too much?!)

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    1. Though I'm not saying I do require all my books to be this way, I think the insistence that books be happy and cheerful is a matter of personal preference, and hardly a reason to think less of someone. You never know who may have a history of sexual abuse or other factors that could influence their "delicate sensibilities," so don't be so quick to dismiss those of us who draw the line at certain unpleasantness in our entertainment. We all have different tastes and comfort levels, and that's what makes life interesting.

      For what it's worth, I do try to always explain *why* I found something offensive - in this case the mentions of rape & animal abuse - which allows you as the reader to make up your own mind. If that comes across as a "put down," at least you'll be able to factor in my own biases and judge for yourself. (Though I do question your assertion that I'm "constantly" putting down great books. I thought almost all of my reviews were positive!)

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    2. For what it's worth, I think Jen has reviewed plenty of books that I enjoy in a balanced and positive manner. I have never been put off by her pointing out dark moments or themes in books, even if I appreciate the book for those same dark qualities.

      I know others who also do not appreciate certain dark themes in books. Perhaps it's not because they are too "delicate" to enjoy these books, but because they have low tolerance for writers carrying on in over dramatic fashion, needlessly trying to make everything so *tragic*, *gritty* or *edgy* in the hope of being taken seriously as writers. I find that to be tiring. Any writer can gruesomely torture a character. Only a good one can really make you care, though.

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    3. I'm with Anonymous. Thank you, Anon, for such a thoughtful reply. Each to his or her own, and I've NEVER found Jen's review's to be anything but honest and even handed. I used to watch - and read - all manner of creepy and scary things, but since I've become a mother, anything that puts a child in peril sends me screaming. And I agree that often the "darkness" seems to be something an author uses to try and make their work seem "weighty". Yes, to appreciate the light, one has to admit the dark. But to say that a book must be dark to work is sophmoric.

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    4. I wouldn't say that Jen is overly sensitive. Conversely, I'd suggest that she is one of the few who is NOT desensitized to these troubling topics. That being said, if it is tiring to "constantly" (although I also disagree with your use of this word) read these reviews, then perhaps you should stop reading them? Just as everyone is free to choose the types of books that appeal to them, you are free to choose the web content that appeals to you. Likewise, Jen is entitled to her opinion. Personally, I appreciate it because just the mere mention of animal abuse rips my insides apart so, for me, that is a valuable piece of information.

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  83. I think that since there are more books to possibly read in a lifetime it's smart to put a book down if you don't like it and keep picking up new books. Okay, I basically ripped that philosophy off of Nancy Pearl but (a) I believe it too and (b) Nancy Pearl is a librarian who has her own library action figure...so yeah.

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  84. My favorite YA books are Donita K Paul's Dragon Keeper Chronicles (DragonSpell, DragonQuest, DragonKnight, DragonFire, and DragonLight) and her sequel series, the Chiril Chronicles (The Dragons of Chiril, the Dragons of the Valley, and the Dragons of the Watch). The Dragon Keeper series should come first. They're all fantasy, and lighthearted in a good way. Her concept of "wizard" is fascinating, as they're more scientist than anything else. I especially like the characters' conversations, as they're very real. My favorite example is in DragonFire, when Kale (the main character) and her mother are getting supplies, and her mom asks for "that thing" vs "that medium-length stirrer".

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  85. I actually just discovered these books a few weeks ago myself, and have finished all 3. I didn't find Fire to be all that dark, actually. I think it got much better around the time you gave up on it. I did like Graceling and Bitterblue better. Bitterblue does have some darkness in it too, though.

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  86. My reading policy is if you aren't enjoying it, it's not worth your time, so read what you like! I'm going to second the recommendations for Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, the Abhorsen trilogy by Nix, and the Codex Alera by Butcher. Gail Carriger's books would be right up your alley- snarky humor and steampunk. Cinder by Marissa Meyer is kind of a sci-fi Cinderella story that I really liked, and the first of a series. The Book of Lost Things by Connoly is another one I read this past year and really liked. I could go on forever, but I'll stop here. :-) Happy reading!

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  87. I loved Graceling and couldn't put down Fire..the books may be grittier than other YA novels but in no way do the glorify violence, whether it is rape, animal abuse or the sad fact that Katsa has to kill for her uncle.
    I didn't find it hard to believe that she has no interest marriage or children. Given her experience men are better not trusted and a child could possibly be born with a grace similar to hers and be exploited as well.
    I actually found it refreshing that Cashore's books do not focus on the romance as much as others.
    If you haven' t already, you NEED to read Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman.
    YA novels I really enjoyed are the Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong, the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare the Wake series by Lisa McMann though it is def. darĂ¼ber and doesn't necessarily have a happy end..Oh, the books by Maggie Stiefvater are pure awesomeness if a bit melancholic.
    Non-fantasy YA I really like are the books by John Green. Looking for Alaska is so great!

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  88. Have you read 'Seraphina' by Rachel Hartman yet? It won last year's Cybil award for YA Fantasy and Science Fiction. I'm not really into dragon novels, but I seriously couldn't put this one down. It is a complete reimagining of the genre, changed my view of dragons and what they can be, and how they could interact with humans. Absolutely fabulous book :)

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  89. Wow, I'm so upset at some of these comments you've received, Jen. How dare people berate you for "bashing" (pfft, like you did anything of the sort) a book they like? If a book is too graphic/triggering/dark for someone, then that's their opinion and people should respect that. Blaming someone's "delicate sensibilities" is so insulting and just plain stupid, pull your head out of your ass.

    Why does any discussion involving YA fantasy always seem to bring out the crazies? It's a book, you like it and someone else doesn't, get over it! And don't you dare get angry over someone disliking it for content that they're personally very uncomfortable with.

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  90. I tried to read these as well, just wasn't feeling it. Which is unfortunate as I usually eat up those kinds of stories. Oh well, it happens. And for anyone looking for a recommendation, try the Stelladaur Series by Shari Whyte. They were all awesome, my personal favorite Finding Tir Na Nog was exceptional. www.stelladaur.com. Great characters that really drive the story, just a great overall read!

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  91. I think its important to read Fire as part of the series because it really helps to drive home some of the things that happen in Bitterblue. It will make you understand the world much better. I wouldn't really have called it a companion book to the other two as they are all so vital to the whole world that Cashore has created. I hope that you manage to get back to it (maybe you've bookmarked it, and from that point it might not seem so bad)because her characters are very well written - but like others have said, if it isn't happening then go on to something else you will enjoy. If you would like a suggestion try Heir of Night by NZ's own Helen Lowe, its sequel is Gathering of the Lost. I think it is meant to be a trilogy.

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  92. I simply enjoyed it for the fact that it was dark. Rape, animal torture, and horror are a part of the real world and I appreciated that the author did not tone down those aspects of the novel. It is very dark I agree and for many it is too dark. However, for those intrepid enough you'll find that Bitterblue is a character worth sticking it out with.

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