Sometimes when I read good reviews of the same book over and over, I don't want to read it. I had Kristin Cashore's Graceling on my list, but wasn't looking forward to it. Then my 9th grader brought it home and said "Read it tonight. I want a copy for my birthday." So I had to. And I adored it, just like everyone else!
Katsa, an orphan princess, is living with her uncle the king. Because she has a "grace" (a special power) for killing, she does her uncle's bidding and dispatches his enemies, so that she can stay in the palace. She finally rebels, meets Prince Po, and gets involved in adventures and errands of epic proportion with him.
It's not the plot that makes this so appealing. Yeah, yeah, they save the princess from her evil father. It's the characters. I loved Katsa. She doesn't like her grace. It scares her and those around her. She has decided never to marry, since all men are fearful of her. Po appeals to her because he can ALMOST beat her in a fight. I loved that she, in essence, saved the prince! It's a little alarming at first, how much they like fighting with each other, but they have such a wonderful, honest, flawed relationship that even I, the world's least romantic person, was sucked into it. Is it because Po will be the one folding socks while Katsa rides off to save the kingdom? Could be. (There is one "intimate" scene, but it is done in such a way that younger girls won't quite get what is going on.)
Parallels between this and Pierce's Alanna are inevitable. I was sad when this ended and can't wait to see what Cashore does next. (apparently a prequel, Fire, and then Bitterblue, about the young queen Katsa saves.)
Why didn't I want to read Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell? The fact that The Edge Chronicles are constantly recommended to me while I'm in the middle of disemboweling a VCR by the sort of talkative child who needs to bask in my presence four times a day. Don't they have classes? This series has a horribly bound Lemony Snicket air to it. But after picking up The Return of the Emerald Skull, I may have to read them, too.
In this sequel to Curse of the Night Wolf, Barnaby Grimes, who works as a "tick-tock boy" or messenger, delivers a stuffed parrot to the head of Grassington Hall, then goes about his business. Later, he finds that the boys in the school have revolted and are doing horrible things to the staff, because the bird, an ancient relic containing "the emerald messenger of darkness" has them under its evil spell. Barnaby, with the help of a professor and another messenger, figures this out and saves them.
Again, the plot is okay, but finishes up a bit abruptly (I reread parts, thinking I missed something). It's Barnaby I liked, as well as some top notch turns of phrase. This is worth buying if only for this sentence (pg. 11) "Of course, the most famous school rebellion took place a few years earlier, at Enderby Court College for Young Ladies. The Enderby Amazons defeated Dame Cecily Mandrake and her fifty-strong staff of ex-convicts using croquets mallets and feral cats..."
Good stuff. I'm adding both in the Barnaby Grimes series to my purchase, and will look into the other ones.