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|Publication date||October 1, 2008 (1st edition)|
|Media type||Print (Hardback and Paperback)|
|Pages||480 (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 978-0-15-206396-2 (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Classification||PZ7.C26823 Gr 2008|
The book earned a place on the Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year for 2008 and received generally favorable reviews. It was followed by a companion book entitled Fire, and a sequel, Bitterblue, which takes place eight years after the events in Graceling, was published on May 1, 2012, by Dial, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.
In the Seven Kingdoms there are beings known as "Gracelings": people graced with prowess at a specific skill, ranging from mundane to magical, who can be identified by their mismatched and oddly colored eyes. In most kingdoms they are treated with fear and suspicion, and usually legal property of the king. Lady Katsa, the niece of the Middluns' king, is graced in the art of killing. Her uncle Randa uses her as a weapon against those who displease him, giving Katsa a reputation as a "murderous dog." To retaliate, Katsa forms a secret organization called The Council, to help those who are being wronged by corrupt rulers all across the kingdoms.
While on a Council mission to rescue the kidnapped former king of Lienid, Katsa comes across a Graced fighter who questions her at knife-point. To her surprise, he doesn't seem interested in harming her. Unsure of his motives, she knocks him out and escapes with the old king. Not long afterwards, the Graceling visits Randa's court and introduces himself as Po, the youngest Lienid prince, who's travelling across all Seven Kingdoms in search of his grandfather. Now trusting one another, the two strike up a friendship.
Po remains at Randa's court under the guise of training with Katsa, while trying to uncover more information about who ordered his grandfather's kidnapping. The Council can find neither a guilty party nor a motive for abducting a harmless old man with no political value. As the two spend more time together, Po begins to make Katsa question her compliance in Randa's orders. When her uncle sends her on a particularly horrible mission, she finds she can't bring herself to do as commanded.
Katsa comes to the realization that Po's Grace is not fighting, but mind reading. When confronted, he explains he senses where people and things are in relation to himself and can only know someone's thoughts if they're about him. He keeps this a secret, even from his father and brothers, because he knows people will not trust him. Katsa eventually calms down and forgives him. Po then tells her he suspects Monsea, one of the more reclused kingdoms, is involved with his grandfather's kidnapping, and he'll be leaving for it the following morning, inviting her to join him. Randa summons Katsa and attempts to arrest her for disobeying his orders, but she defiantly says she's leaving the court and explains in great detail how she'll kill him and his guards if anyone makes a move to stop her.
Po and Katsa ride for Monsea. As they approach the kingdom, they begin to hear strange stories about Monsea's king, Leck. Po suspects he might be Graced, although it is impossible to tell because Leck is missing an eye. Along the journey, Katsa and Po fall in love. Katsa refuses to act on these feelings, as she wants neither marriage or children, but eventually they come up with a compromise, and the two become passionate lovers. They also realize that Katsa's Grace is not killing, but survival skills.
While traveling through the Monsean forest, they see King Leck and a hunting party chase down the Monsean queen, Ashen, Po's aunt. Leck shoots her down, then declares it was a tragic accident. All his men instantly concede, as does Katsa, but Po remains unaffected and forces Katsa to retreat with him while covering her ears. After fleeing out of earshot, he tells Katsa that Ashen recognized him before she was killed, and wanted to tell him that her daughter, Princess Bitterblue, is hiding in the forest somewhere. The two find the princess and earn her trust. Bitterblue explains that Leck is graced with the ability to control people through his words. Ashen became capable of resisting when she realized her husband had taken an unseemly interest in their daughter, and the two barricaded themselves in their chambers. Leck arranged for the old Lienid king to be kidnapped, hoping Ashen would come out if she knew her father was in danger, but instead the two fled from the castle.
Po tries to assassinate Leck, but fails and is injured in the process. He convinces Katsa to leave him behind and take Bitterblue to Lienid, giving her his ring as a way to vertify their identity as his allies. Katsa realizes the only way to get out of Monsea without being detected is through Grella's pass, a dangerous icy mountain pathway that no one has ever survived. Bitterblue and Katsa make it across alive, barely, and head to the ports of Sunder, where they can get passage to Lienid. A Lienid crew agrees to take them after they show the ring.
When Katsa and Bitterblue arrive in Lienid, they discover Leck is already there, having predicted their plan. He's put the entire royal family in his thrall, and Katsa struggles to resist his control. As he's about to force her to reveal Po's true Grace to his family, she breaks free and impales him with a dagger. With Leck dead, the control his Grace has on people begins to wane.
Po's father, King Ror, travels to Monsea to try and fix some of the chaos Leck created, in preparation for Bitterblue's coronation, while Katsa and Bitterblue go back for Po. He seems irritable and closed off, eventually revealing that the fall blinded him and he's so asahmed that he'd prefer to spend the rest of his life living as a hermit. After some time he comes to reconcile his situation, realizing that he can still see the beauty of the world through his Grace. After Bitterblue's coronation, Po plans to return to Lienid for a while to spend time with his family, while Katsa stays in Monsea to support the new queen and train girls how to defend themselves.
- Lady Katsa - The protagonist. Katsa's Grace is initially thought to be killing, as she reflexively killed a cousin who touched her inappropriately when she was eight. Her uncle, King Randa, realized if she mastered her Grace she could be of great use to him. He began using her to torture and kill all those who displeased or crossed him, leading Katsa to garner a fearful reputation among all seven kingdoms. Towards the end of the novel, she and Po realize that her Grace is not killing, but survival. Katsa has fair skin, dark hair that she prefers to keep short, one green eye and one blue.
- Prince Po - The youngest of the seven princes of Lienid, and the son of King Ror. Po is Graced with perception: he can sense any feelings, thoughts or intentions a person has towards him, as well as everything's position in relation to himself. When his mother and grandfather discovered his Grace, they feared people would want to use him for it or distrust him, so they taught him to pass it off as a fighting Grace. His full name is Greening Grandemalion, but his gold and silver eyes earned him the nickname "Po" (after the gold and silver leaves of the Leinid Po tree).
- King Leck - The King of Monsea and the primary antagonist of the book. Although he is renowned for his kindness towards small animals and children, he is actually a sadist who enjoys torturing and experimenting on people and animals alike. This has not come to light due to his powerful Grace: to control and influence people with his words. He married Ashen, King Ror's sister, and had a daughter with her, Bitterblue. His Grace stopped working on Ashen when she realized he planned to hurt Bitterblue, leading both wife and daughter to lock themselves in their quarters and eventually escape. He pursued the two, killing Ashen when he finally caught up with her, and scouring the forest for Bitterblue. Due to an injury he sustained at a young age, he covers one of his eyes with an eyepatch, which has the added benefit of hiding the fact that he's a Graceling. He is killed by Katsa when he tries to reveal the truth of Po's Grace.
- Bitterblue - King Leck's daughter and the Princess of Monsea. Leck's Grace stopped working on her when she saw him hit her mother. Over the course of the book she grows close to Katsa and Po, forming a sibling-like relationship with them. She is the main protagonist in the sequel, Bitterblue.
- King Randa - King of the Middluns and Katsa's uncle. Like most kings in the Seven Kingdoms, he is far from being a fair or just ruler (although never evil enough that the Council seriously contemplates assassinating him). When he realized Katsa had a Grace that could be useful to him, he began commanding her to kill, maim, and torture anyone who defied or displeased him, scolding her if she didn't inflict the exact punishment he'd ordered and verbally abuaing her into obedience.
- Prince Raffin - The Prince of the Middluns and Katsa's cousin. He's enjoys working on medicines and cures, a facination he shares with his assistant and lover, Bann. He secretly works for the Council.
- Bann - Prince Raffin's assistant. It's implied that the two are lovers, which is confirmed in Bitterblue.
- Lord Giddon - One of Randa's underlords, and a member of the Council. He is in love with Katsa, something which everyone apart from Katsa herself seems to have realized. Because of this, he is extremely jealous of Po.
- Lord Oll - Randa's captain and spymaster. He secretly works as a member of the Council.
Awards and nominations
Graceling was shortlisted for the American Library Association's (ALA) William C. Morris YA Award, is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, was a Cybils finalist (Fantasy/SF category), and was a finalist for both the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (the SFWA's award for YA given concurrently with the Nebulas) and the Indies Choice Book Awards (Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book category). Graceling won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance 2009 Young Adult SIBA Book Award. The book also was awarded:
- Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year 2008
- School Library Journal Best Books of 2008
- Booklist 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth
- A Booklist's Editor's Choice for 2008 
- 2009 Amelia Bloomer List
- 2009 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Finalist
- Won Mythopoeic Fantasy Award For Children's literature in 2009 
- Nominated for 2010 Washington Evergreen Award
- Nominated for 2010-2011 Eliot Rosewater Award
- On the Bulletin's Center for Children's Books 2009 Blue Ribbon List
- 2012 California Young Reader Medal
It was announced on April 25, 2013, that the film rights had been acquired by Reliance Entertainment.
Sue Ellen Beauregard, author of Top 10 first novels for youth on audio of the Audiobook review, said that it had "[m]any layered fantasy adventures." School Library Journal stated that the characters are "compelling and eminently likeable" and calling Cashore's style "exemplary". Kirkus Reviews calls Katsa an "ideal adolescent heroine" and that the story is "grace-full, in every sense".
- 2008, USA, Harcourt ISBN 978-0-15-206396-2, Pub date 1 October 2008, Hardback
- "PW Review Staff," Publishers Weekly, November 3, 2008.
- "Kristin Cashore," This Is My Secret, February 28, 2008.
- "SIBA," 2009 SIBA Book Award Winners Announced, July 3, 2009.
- "Jones, T. et al," School Library Journal, December 1, 2008.
- "Cooper, Ilene", Booklist, November 15, 2008.
- Amelia Bloomer Project Blog, February 10, 2009.
- "‘Graceling’ by Kristin Cashore picked up for film adaptation by Reliance Entertainment". pagetopremiere.com. 27 April 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- Beauregard, Sue Ellen (October 15, 2010). "Top 10 first novels for youth on audio". Audiobook review 107 (4): 66.