Gosh, volume five! That means we’ve been finding you gems (we hope) for nearly six months now! This is exciting for us, even if it’s not for you. Anyhoo, remember ages ago when we raved about Kristin Cashore as one of our favourite authors? That’s because of her Seven Kingdoms trilogy which really needs to be talked about as a whole. There’s Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue, all of which are awesomely awesome. Tamora Pierce goes as far as to say (about Bitterblue) “There aren’t enough words to describe how awesome this book is.” So that’s a pretty big recommendation!

book cover courtesy of Syndetics book cover courtesy of Syndetics book cover courtesy of Syndetics

Unusually, all three books feature the same villain (who is one scarily sadistic psychopath) but at different stages of his life. If you read them out of order the second book will give away a MASSIVE plot point of the first book. This is a fantasy trilogy and as such it takes place in a magical realm separate from our own. What makes it different is the presence of ‘Gracelings’ who are ordinary people with incredible abilities. Their eyes are two different colours and they are (mostly) feared and hated by everyone else. Their abilities can go from things like being able to hold one’s breath forever or being a master in the kitchen to extreme fighting skills or the ability to read people’s minds. In the spirit of three, we’ll give you three reasons why we love these books:

1. The badass heroines. Each book features a very different young woman, all incredible for different reasons, but who are all embarking on major ‘save-the-world’ quests. All three go through a transformation as they work out who they are, what their place is in the world, and accept the power they have (in this case, a literal power that no one else has). It’s so well done though, you almost don’t notice the coming-of-age element. Because there is just so much awesomeness happening. BUT after all that they don’t get their happy ever after. Well, not in the traditional sense anyway. This is a sneaky reason number four why we love these books. You may not agree, (plenty of people on GoodReads hate this part) but we think that while it makes it frustrating, it also makes the books a whole lot more believable. We don’t want to ruin it for you but essentially they all choose to be part of something bigger than them at a personal cost.

2. Kristin Cashore is a marvelously adept storyteller and gets more so with each book. The books are told entirely from each heroine’s perspective and function like a mystery, we discover things as they discover things. It’s obvious that this is Kristin Cashore’s world and that we’re only visiting. As such, you feel like she has the entire narrative carefully worked out in her head, with each piece of the puzzle released to keep you guessing till the end. But at the same time you know that all the mysteries will be solved and a happy ending (of sorts) reached, making it an extremely enjoyable read.

3. The diegesis (fancy talk for setting). Often when I read fantasy novels (especially those that are grounded in our world like The Raven Boys) I find it hard to fully embrace or believe in the world (or diegesis) of the characters. Kristin Cashore makes it so easy to do this. She explains her diegesis and it doesn’t change (their almost magical capabilities are never increasing for example). The aspects that link this world to our world are in human nature. For example, being (magically) different in the Seven Kingdoms makes you feared and an outcast. Which is similar to how difference is treated in our world. Furthermore, the plot is driven by human conflict. So things like rivalry and love and anger and friendship are the cause of character’s actions firstly, and then secondly will be the influence of their magical component. When you can relate to a character’s emotions, it makes their world so much easier to believe in. Well, that’s what we thought anyway, feel free to disagree.

The best thing about this tremendous trilogy? Kristin Cashore hasn’t ruled out a fourth book!