I was going to blog the other day about a book I had just started that was promising to be pretty mediocre. I wasn't going to specify the book, because 1) I now fear the self-googling of authors, and 2) though I don't know her, I went to school with the author, making it even more desirable that I not be found out.
The first four chapters were, in my opinion, pretty mediocre. The story begins in medias res, as is only proper--the main character and some of her friends are rescuing someone from the dungeon of a king. There are a lot of names introduced (the friends who are with her, the friends who are waiting elsewhere, the various royalty involved), which is a muddle, but one trusts the author to sort out a muddle of introductions in the first chapter, so fine.
This is followed by three or four chapters of "backstory." This was painful--it reminded me of that chapter at the beginning of all the Babysitters Club books where we learn that Stacey has diabetes and dresses really cool and Dawn is from California and an individual and Kristy's new stepfather is a millionaire. Ex Po Si Shun. Some potentially really good storytelling, actually--I suspect that the book was much longer and she was forced to boil all that down and tell-not-show the background. Oh, this girl has been a thug and then started a secret organization for righting cosmic wrongs. Check--now back to our story.
So I wasn't very hopeful. By the end of the book, though, I couldn't put it down (thank God the baby's been napping well), except when something so nerve-wracking was happening that I couldn't bear to watch. The characterizations that started out so heavy-handed ended up with some really nice character development. A number of fantasy cliches were avoided (some weren't, but if you read fantasy you really can't mind a few cliches). I really liked this book.
Graceling is the title. Thumbs up.