"Does it lighten the burden of your Grace, to know you have beautiful eyes?"
The Graceling Realm, or The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, is a Young Adult fantasy trilogy by Kristin Cashore. It is set between the Seven Kingdoms, where people born with exceptional skills are known as "Gracelings" and feared, and the Dells, a land filled with deadly and beautiful beings refered to as "monsters".The first book, Graceling, focuses on Katsa, who is Graced in killing and is forced to utilize her gift to do her uncle King Randa's dirty work. She long ago accepted she'd always be Randa's savage dog, hated and feared. But when she crosses paths with fellow Graceling Po she begins to reconsider that, and together they unravel a mystery that puts all seven kingdoms at risk.Fire, the second book, a prequel set nearly forty years prior, is about the titular Fire, the last human monster in existence. With her monster status comes impossible beauty and the abilty to read and control minds, as well as the legacy of her father, a true monster who nearly tore the Dells apart. Aware of her power, and afraid of it, Fire lives in a corner of the world away from people and temptation. Until the day comes when she is needed by her king, and Fire soon finds herself more entangled in the Dells political struggle than she could ever have imagined.The last in the trilogy, Bitterblue, returns to the Seven Kingdoms, this time following Bitterblue from the second half of Graceling. Thirty-five years under the thumb of her cruel father and his terrifying Grace have left Monsea in shambles, and now Queen Bitterblue has to pick up the pieces. Her advisers believe they should pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck's reign and forget every dark event that ever happened in that time. Monsea's past has become shrouded in mystery, and it's only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle to walk the streets of her own city at night, that she realizes the true state of her country. Her kingdom has been under the spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.On April 25th, 2013, it was announced a film based on the first book is being developed.
The series provides examples of:
Action Girl: Plenty. Most notably, Katsa, Bitterblue, and all the women in Brigan's army.
Hannah grows up to be one. We never see it, but it's mentioned in Bitterblue that she's an army commander.
Aerith and Bob: Most of the characters have short, simple medieval-sounding names: Katsa, Raffin, Faun, Leck, Oll, Skye, Helda, Randa, Ashen. But then there's Bitterblue and Greening Grandemalion (who goes by Po, but still).
These last two are from the Kingdom of Lienid where most names are based on colours.
It's more apparent in Fire, when we have a mix of names like Briggan and Nash mixed with names like Clara and Hannah.
Blessed with Suck: If you're lucky, your Grace will be useful and the king will keep you at court. If you're unlucky, then you get sent home, where you'll most likely be shunned for your useless Grace. If you're really lucky, you live in Lienid, where the Gracelings are free and treated with respect.
Po's ability to read minds and sense people really does suck, since no one would trust him.
Being a human monster. Especially if you're a woman. Everyone objectifies you for your beauty, and you constantly have to watch for people who want to (sexually) assault you. Oh, and monster animals hunger for your flesh.
Crapsack World: Six of the seven kingdoms are run by a greedy, selfish king who don't give a crap about their people and are more interested in having spats with each other.
Likewise, while the Dells is more advanced in terms of medicine, science, art, etc, it's been in a lawless, decaying state for the past thirty years and is in the middle of a civil war, thanks to Nax and Cansrel being more concerned with getting high than running the country. It's got better in Bitterblue though, from the sound of it.
Cursed with Awesome: Katsa's real Grace: Survival. King Leck's Grace also qualifies, but he has no moral qualms about utilizing this.
Fantasy Contraception: Both Katsa and Bitterblue use seabane, an herb that prevents pregnancy, and Fire eventually decides take a certain type of medicine that leaves her permanently unable to have children.
La Résistance: The Council is a mild version of this. At first they're not interested in taking down any kings, merely just off-setting the damadge they do, but by Bitterblue they're supporting one kingdom overthrowing their king and replacing him with a democracy.
One Person, One Power: One Grace per Graceling, although how much they can do with it depends on how broadly it's defined.
Stay in the Kitchen: As you'd expect from a medieval fantasy world, but for once it's acually adressed rather than just accepted. Katsa points how ridiculous it is that women are supposed to rely on men to protect them, when chances are it'll be men that want to harm them as well.
The Delians, being the more advanced and forward-thinking country, have allowed women to become full members of the army. Only recently, but still way better than the Seven Kingdoms.
Superpower Lottery: Graces can be anything from being good at climbing trees to mind reading.
Childhood Marriage Promise: Subverted. Katsa and Raffin were thinking of making one so Raffin could avoid an Arranged Marriage. They don't take it too seriously and laughed about it when they realized it would never work.
Determinator: Katsa really wants to be the best at everything, whether it's from archery to just racing up the stairs. There's also the bit where she crosses Grella's Pass with Bitterblue in the middle of a blizzard.
The Dog Bites Back: Katsa comments about how Randa knows how to make her feel like a brutal dog. She then tells him how she will kill all of the hundreds of guards he has with him, along with Randa himself.
Love at First Punch: For Po at least. Actually, a big part of Katsa's and Po's relationship is centered on trying to punch each others' guts out. Being that both of them are accomplished fighters who revel in sparring matches, this is much less dysfunctional than it sounds.
Mass Hypnosis: Not only Leck's Kingdom, but everyone who personally meets King Leck. In fact, anyone who hears King Leck, and then talks to other people, who then talk to other people, taking this Serial Escalation.
Oblivious to Love: Katsa, full stop. She didn't realize that Giddon was in love with her, she didn't realize Po was in love with her, she didn't realize realize she was in love with Po.
Running Gag: Katsa "abusing" her horses from overwork. Probably also qualifies as Somewhere an Equestrian is Crying. Seriously, she rides her horses full tilt at night for hours because its "only" five or six more leagues until they get home and she's too impatient to wait for morning. One of the other characters asks if she is still ruining the horses.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: Randa gives Katsa a Breaking Speech when she refuses to obey him. She responds by telling him exactly how she could kill every guard in the throne room and himself, before leaving.
Telepathy: Po's real grace. Note that it works only when people's thoughts are specifically focused on him.
With My Hands Tied: When normal fighting gets boring, Katsa begins training to fight up to eight men all at once, with her arms behind her back.
"World of Cardboard" Speech: Katsa gives one to Randa during her Shut Up, Hannibal! moment by detailing exactly how she could slaughter him and every one of the two hundred guards he has surrounding her. Internally, she acknowledges that she'd be lucky to survive the bloodbath herself, but Randa would certainly die and the death toll would be tremendous regardless.
Writer on Board: Katsa's beliefs on marriage and having children. Word of God even admits that some of her beliefs got transferred into the novel.
Closed Door Rapport: Fire insists on this with Nash at first, since seeing her face reduces him to a babbling idiot. Eventually he gets better.
Cool Horse: Subverted when Fire chooses a plain, but good-natured gelding instead of the showy mare Cansrel picked for her. Played straight with the river horse that "adopts" her after her escape from Leck's hideout.
Enfant Terrible: Leck. Isn't it nice to know that he's been torturing animals and killing people since he was a child?
Friend to All Living Things: Fire loves animals and they love her. It does help that she has mind reading/control powers, so she can sense how they react to her and directly reassure them when needed to.
Friend to All Children: Fire, which is why her resolution to remain the last of her kind is so difficult to keep. She compensates by taking care of her friends' children.
Friends with Benefits: Fire and Archer. He wants to marry her, but the more he asks, the more it irritates her.
Genius Ditz: Clara may seem silly at first meeting, but she's actually one of the Dells' highest-ranking spymasters.
Ill Girl: Garan is the rare male version of this trope.
Inverse Law of Fertility: A variation. Fire, as mentioned, wants children, and she's physically capable of having them at least until she utilizes a permanent form of birth control but she doesn't dare, because monster humans should not exist.
Meanwhile, Mila and Clara become pregnant purely by accident.
Lamarck Was Right: A large theme of the story is defying this. "If we are all to be judged by our parents and grandparents, we all may as well impale ourselves on pointy bits of rock."
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Heavily deconstructed with Fire. Her beauty makes her a predator magnet of both the animal and human variety, to the point that she is assigned a permanent twenty-person guard and isn't even allowed to sleep alone - two of her female guards must always be with her - once she's at the palace, as there are too many people who might want to hurt her, or even just barge into her rooms for the sole purpose of staring at her or touching her hair.
The book is very good at taking the idea of someone being "impossibly beautiful" to the point of being nearly irresistible and showing just how awful that would be. Even leaving aside all of the obvious drawbacks mentioned above, there are smaller, more emotion-based ones that would be just as psychologically hard to deal with. Much of human empathy comes from how people look; the crappier someone looks, the more likely a person is to feel sympathy/empathy for them and reach out with comfort and understanding. Even when beaten, bruised, sickly, and crying, Fire is still the most gorgeous creature in the Dells. How she looks will almost never reflect how she truly feels. Fire herself puts it best:
"I'm not how I look," [Fire] said suddenly, bursting into tears. "I look beautiful and placid and delightful, but that's not how I feel. I will be sad. I will be sad, and confused, and irritable, very often."
We Can Rule Together: Leck wants Fire as his "partner". Her answer is to send him falling into some sharp rocks, explaining why he has an eyepatch in the later book.
We Have Ways of Making You Talk: Fire herself, albeit very reluctantly and after much persuasion, uses her monster powers to interrogate prisoners. Justified as she's working to prevent a three-way war.
What the Hell, Hero?: Garan gives Fire an epic one due to her spending so much time wallowing in her grief rather than doing anything useful.
This benefits him though, as nobody realizes the significance and danger of his mismatched eyes. And there are no laws saying he's property of the king, which is what he was trying to escape when he left the Seven Kingdoms in the first place.
Your Cheating Heart: Brocker and Roan. Averted with Fire and Archer, as Fire knows that Archer sleeps around and doesn't think much of it, beyond frustration for the broken hearts he leaves in his wake.
Heroic Bastard: Bitterblue's half sister Hava saves her life a few times but is the only person to know they are related
It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Although this information is of questionable relevance to this record; Death, the Royal Librarian of Monsea , would merely like to note that his name is pronounced to rhyme with "teeth." (Though he suspects that some get it wrong merely to annoy him at times.)
MedicalHorror/MedicalRapeAndImpregnate: One of Lecks great passions was his "hospital" where he would perfom surgical experiments. He even raped women for the purpose of having pregnant subjects. His impulse control problems often caused his subjects to die too quickly as he would perform multiple simultaneous experiments on a single person.
Rape By Proxy: Leck. Just to make it worse, he used other men as the proxy.
Some entries are at the moment grievously incomplete, pending the final, official reports. The annalists cannot be held accountable for errors or omissions caused or required by others, of which there are doubtless many.