Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The basics

Title: Graceling


Series: Graceling Realm #1

- Graceling (October 2008)
- Fire (October 2009)
- Bitterblue (May 2012)
- Winterkeep (January 2021)

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Goodreads Summary:

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...

Read a full summary of Graceling by Kristin Cashore below. If you can’t remember what happened in Gracelingand you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

What happened in Graceling?

  • Katsa has the Grace of killing. She breaks into the castle dungeons to rescue someone being kept there. The man is Prince Tealiff from Lienid.
  • On the way out of the castle, Katsa bumps into a guy who doesn’t pass out from the sleeping pills she tries to give him. This guy is Graced with fighting. Katsa manages to knock him out in a fight because she’s badass.
  • Katsa’s Council want to know why Tealiff was imprisoned in the dungeons. They reckon it had something to do with the kings from Wester, Nander, or Estill.
  • Katsa and her crew chat a bit about the Council and how Katsa brought them together because the kings are a bit useless. Katsa recalls how her uncle, King Randa, had her kill a man when she was a child. Gross.
  • Katsa is on her way to punish a borderlord. This guy apparently has a daughter who is Graced with telepathy. It doesn’t take long for the lord to give in and agree to pay Randa back. The daughter sees and runs off.
  • The crew returns to Randa City and stay at an inn. Katsa practises her moves. King Murgon reports a robbery, which amuses the crew, especially because Murgon was probably robbed by a Graceling. It turns out the robbery happened the same night they were at the castle.
  • At Randa’s court, Katsa hands Tealiff to Raffin, who is good with herbs. Katsa wants Tealiff to wake up so she can ask him about the fighty Graceling from the courtyard.
  • The fighty Graceling has actually shown up at the court. He introduces himself as Po, Tealiff’s grandson.
  • Randa orders Katsa to get dressed for dinner.
  • Helda, Katsa’s ladyservant, helps Katsa get dressed. Helda tries to matchmake a bit because she wants Katsa to find a man.
  • Katsa finds the dinner very dull. There’s a boring lord there who’s probably interested but she shuts him down. Katsa leaves dinner quite abruptly.
  • Katsa goes to shoot some arrows. Po joins her and they chat. Po wants to know about Tealiff. Katsa takes him to see his grandfather.
  • There’s a council meeting. Some information is passed around, and the kings from Estill and Nander are no longer suspects. So it’s probably this Birn guy from Wester?
  • Po plans to stick around until Tealiff is better.
  • Po and Katsa train. They’re very well matched.
  • Po asks about Katsa’s feelings about Giddon’s feelings. Katsa is a bit confused and asks Raffin about this. Everyone knows that Giddon is in love with Katsa, apparently.
  • Birn is no longer innocent, so therefore King Murgon must have been acting alone in the kidnapping because it couldn’t have been King Leck as he’s not suspicious (!). Katsa wants to interrogate Murgon but that would compromise the council so it’s probably not a good idea.
  • One day, Randa watches Katsa and Po fight. He’s a creep. Randa asks to see Katsa later as he has a job for her.
  • Po and Katsa eat together, and he suggests she refuses to go along with Randa’s plans. Katsa gets angry because she doesn’t think it’s possible. She hits Po in a fit of rage. She apologises, and admits that she’s worried she’ll kill Randa if they get into an argument.
  • Randa wants Katsa to make a lord marry his daughter to an underlord. Gross. Again. No one likes this idea. Katsa tries to find away to not carry out the orders. She tells Lord Ellis, the father, that she won’t make him give his daughter away.
  • Katsa pretends to hurt Giddon and Oll as part of the act.
  • Giddon proposes to Katsa but she of course does not want that. Giddon is annoyed and tells Katsa to get over Po.
  • Katsa returns to Randa City and finds Po. She accuses him of lying about his Grace and actually being a mind reader. He isn’t. His actual Grace is being able to sense people when they’re near him, and sense their thoughts when they’re thinking about him.
  • Randa sends for Katsa. He’s surrounded by guards to protect himself from Katsa. He wants Katsa to apologise for the betrayal with Lord Ellis. Katsa refuses and picks apart his guard because they’re not arranged properly at all.
  • Po and Katsa head off to investigate the whole Tealiff thing more fully. They head to Murgon City. Katsa tries to speak to Po with her mind but she ends up startling him instead.
  • Po tells Katsa about King Leck of Monsea, and how his adoptive parents died under mysterious circumstances. Apparently Leck is very nice though so it’s all good?
  • Katsa protects a serving girl from a bunch of merchants. They come along that evening and offer up some information. It’s not particularly useful, but now Leck is a suspect. The merchants make a comment about the innkeeper’s daughter so Katsa refuses to pay them anything.
  • Po reckons Leck has a Grace since he wears an eye patch (presumably to cover his different coloured eye).
  • Katsa tells Po she doesn’t want to marry him. She does think that being lovers is a nice idea though.
  • Po thinks Katsa’s Grace isn’t actually just killing, becuase it seems to be something more. She doesn’t get cold or hungry either.
  • The pair head thorugh a mountain pass to reach Leck’s kingdom. Katsa promises to follow his lead on this so they can figure out what Leck’s power is.
  • They bump into Po’s aunt, Ashen, who is being chased by Leck’s guards. Leck shoots and kills her. Po tells Katsa to kill Leck but she gets confused and her mind seems a bit all over the place. She thinks it was all an accident.
  • Po gets Katsa to run away and Leck chases after them. They figure Leck can manipulate her mind.
  • They learn that Ashen was trying to escape with Bitterblue. They need to find the child.
  • They find Bitterblue hiding in the woods and head south with her. They need to figure out how to kill Leck now.
  • Bitterblue tells them how Leck can manipulate people’s minds. He was manipulating Ashen. He is also a perv.
  • Po wants to go after Leck and for Katsa to continue taking Bitterblue south.
  • Before leaving, Po gives Katsa his ring so people know they’re together. Po doesn’t come back for ages, and when he finally returns he is covered in blood and he falls off a cliff into the water.
  • He’s alive, but he didn’t get to kill Leck.
  • They plan to leave Po behind so that Katsa and Bitterblue can escape faster. They hide him away in a cabin, and find a secret hiding spot behind a waterfall too.
  • Katsa and Bitterblue have to head through the mountains, which isn’t the best plan but it’s probably the only path without an ambush. It’s pretty cold up there, and even Katsa starts to get a bit chilly. They make it, though, and find an inn in Sunder.
  • Katsa takes them to a place she knows is safe. The people there recognise this as Council business. Katsa tells everyone about Leck and his powers.
  • Katsa and Bitterblue head to the sea. They need to find a Lienid ship. They find one, and the captain recognises Katsa and believes her story. The captain tells Katsa that the ring Po gave her is an identity ring, and it means he has given up his prince-ship and made her princess instead.
  • The ship heads out to sea. Bitterblue isn’t having a good time because she gets very seasick.
  • Katsa asks the captain to stay at sea until this Leck business is solved. She wants her as far away from Leck as possible.
  • The ship arrives at Po’s castle. A servant takes Katsa to the reception hall and mentions a new master. Katsa thinks he’s talking about Po, but she soon realises that he was actually taking about Leck. Wonderful.
  • Leck immediately starts controlling Katsa’s mind. She does have a weird feeling that she doesn’t trust him but for the most part she goes along with what he says. Bitterblue is able to tell Katsa that he shouldn’t be trusted.
  • Po’s mother, the queen, tries to take Bitterblue away.
  • Leck asks after Po, and Katsa is able to resist telling him where he is. Leck threatens to disclose Po’s true Grace, and Katsa is able to break the spell. She kills Leck with a dagger to the mouth.
  • The guards try to stop Katsa, but Bitterblue intervenes long enough for their minds to clear.
  • Katsa heads back to Monsea find Po. One of Po’s brothers also heads off to bring Tealiff home. Katsa finds Po and he seems a bit distant.
  • Po has now decided he wants to live alone as a mountain man. He seems really down. Katsa eventually realises that Po is now blind, having lost his eyesight when his horse fell on him.
  • Po now feels down because he found purpose in eventually killing Leck, which Katsa has now done. Po is still able to use his Grace to sense the world around him. He seems to be feeling a bit better by the end of the book.
  • Katsa opens a woodland fighting academy. She teaches Bitterblue to use a sword, and helps to increase Po’s physical strength.
  • Bitterblue heads off for her coronation. Katsa has to wear another dress. After the coronation, Po and Katsa head back to the mountains.
  • In the epilogue, Po talks about heading back to Lienid. Katsa wants to head to Bitterblue City and train girls to fight.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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