Influential YA Fantasy Authors: Kristin Cashore

hart In the lead up to our big event with Young Adult fantasy author extraordinaire Cassandra Clare, we’ve asked a range of YA authors and commentators to blog about their influential YA fantasy authors. Today Rhiannon Hart (pictured left) blogs about American fantasy author Kristin Cashore.

Kristin Cashore is a relative newcomer onto the young adult fantasy scene. Her first novel, Graceling, was published in Australia in 2008, and her second, Fire, in 2010. Both feature young women with terrible skills who find themselves manipulated and used by those in power.

In Graceling, Katsa’s special gift, or Grace, is the power to kill. As the niece of the king, she is forced to become his thug, and is unmatched in battle until she meets Po, a man who is also Graced in combat. The two become friends, and come face to face with someone who threatens to tear the Seven Kingdoms apart. The writing is gritty and fast paced, but also darkly humorous in places, and the climax is thunderously exciting.

Fire is not quite a companion novel to Graceling and it’s not quite a prequel. Rather, it’s a little of both and can be read as a standalone. It’s set in the Dells, a neighbouring kingdom to the one in Cashore’s first novel. Here there are such things as monsters: animals that have normal shapes but strange and vivid colouration. They are able to control the minds of humans. Fire is the last monster that has human form and is both hated and adored. It’s a frightening sort of adoration: the sort that inspires violence. There are plenty of novels about the curse of beauty, but few in which the reader isn’t supposed to feel at least a shred of envy for the one who is “afflicted” with astounding good looks. There is little that is enviable in Fire’s situation, however. She is a “monster”, after all, something that Cashore thoroughly explores.

cashore American YA fantasy author Kristin Cashore.

These are character-driven novels set in a meticulously drawn world. Katsa and Fire are no Mary-Sues meandering through a fantasy realm for the author’s gratification; nor are they propped up by the detail contained in the world: they’re brilliant characters in their own right. Cashore has attracted much praise for her novels, and is a New York Times bestselling author. She’s also garnered accolades from the matriarch of fantasy novels for girls, Tamora Pierce. There are similarities between the two writers’ works: both favour strong, independent female leads struggling to find their place in a world that would deny their true natures. They are “sword and sorcery” type novels, but where they differ are Cashore’s characters carry their magic entirely within themselves rather than drawing it from “out there”, and it’s both a burden and a gift. This idea of carrying a terrible burden is a recurring theme in Cashore’s work.

A long awaited third instalment of the Seven Kingdoms books, titled Bitterblue, has been delayed, changed publishers, and has generally remained an enigma since it was announced. It is set six years after the events in Graceling, revolves around Bitterblue, a primary character from that novel, and will feature individuals from the two existing works. Little more than that is known, except that it is eagerly anticipated by fans around the world.

Rhiannon Hart is a Melbourne writer. Her debut young adult fantasy novel Blood Song: The First Book of Lharmell will be out in September. Kristin Cashore is in Australia for the Sydney Writers' Festival this month and will be signing copies of her books at the Readings State Library of Victoria bookshop on Friday May 27 at 5pm. You can also follow Kristin over on her blog.



Kristin Cashore

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