Graceling Realm Series (Kristen Cashore)

I recently stumbled upon a captivating young adult fantasy series by Kristen Cashore and subsequently devoured all 1471 pages of it in less than a week. These books, meant to be companion books rather than works in a chronological trilogy, were delicious. The friend of mine who gave them to me said that her husband had found them by Googling something like “feminist sci-fi or fantasy”…which doesn’t surprise me. The female protagonists featured in each novel are definitely strong women (although, disappointingly, perhaps somewhat less so in Bitterblue). Cashore sneaks in a lot of little details about female empowerment — everything from a woman’s right to birth control to consent to non-heteronormative relationships — that are impressively integrated into (or even central to) the narratives she writes. In fact, each novel features strong, powerful, capable women alongside caring, sensitive, admirable men. I can see why a search for feminist fantasy would yield the Graceling Realm books.

On a more literary level, the characters are complex and dynamic, and these books are so interesting that I had a hard time deciding to stop reading at night so I could get some sleep. My biggest criticism isn’t really a criticism at all: I wish there were more books in this series for me to read!

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