In my quest to become a young adult novelist, I felt like it was appropriate to do some research into the field. Scope out my competition. Nibble on the neighbor’s cake. Sip the social tea, so to speak.
The competition is fierce, but I have hope.
One day at work, I was procrastinating on Scribd, searching for the latest fantasy novel pdf. People post whole transcripts of great novels like Feist’s Riftwar Saga, Sanderson’s Final Empire Series, etc. Note that these versions are often filled with typos and that scribd isn’t compatible with Readability (a great browser add-on that makes any webpage legible in whatever formatting you choose, be it newspaper, novel, or a custom style). Nothing is as good as the real thing, which is why I’m also hesitant to invest in an eReader, but that is another matter for another day. During one of these procrastination-induced forays, I stumbled upon some rabid fanfare for Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. The accolades she has received for her work made me drool with anticipation. Only the first chapter was available for perusal. It would be months before the book and I would cross paths again, but the moment I saw it, I coveted the treasure before me. It was on the highest shelf in the young adult section of Half-Price Books. The cover was missing, leaving a turquoise spine branded in gold, like an archaic tome amongst the modern monochromatic paperbacks. The sticker plastered on the front touted “As is $5.99” as if I would even haggle its value or that $5.99 was all that the near mint-condition book was worth. (Scoff). I love a great bargain, but I also feel that I should support authors by buying from the vendor that gives them the most percentage. Certainly second-hand bookstores send nothing of their proceeds to original authors. I should ask her about this later.
Visiting Cashore’s website led me to believe that she is a singular soul, much like the main character, Katsa. Her blog prose is neurotic, bellicose, and highly amusing. It was such a contrast to her narrative voice, I was pleasantly surprised. She is currently touring France, signing autographs and attending conventions alongside the likes of Joe Abercrombie, etc. Oh, how I envy her. She’s living my dream!
I wanted to post a quote from the book to illustrate how inspiring her writing is, but I realized that all the relevant parts and dialog would be spoilers or meaningless to the casual reader. Therein lies her art: it’s not necessarily that Cashore has the most profound diction; rather, it’s that she avoids the one major thing that readers complain about- not once does the story deviate from the main plot. Pages aren’t wasted on superfluous adjectives. The exposition is woven in and every word is used effectively. Readers are constantly in the action, and it makes the book incredibly hard to put down. I scarfed my lunch and sat in my car in the Texas heat to read a chapter before getting back to work.
Her work reminded me of the first fantasy adventure series that I ever read, Song of the Lioness, the reason why my loyalties lie with the genre. If strong female leads, exotic, playful love interests and supernatural omnipotent antagonists sound fascinating, I highly recommend both Cashore’s debut novel Graceling as well as any of Tamora Pierce’s work.