"Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us togefer today. Mawage, that bwessed awangement, that dweam wifin a dweam..."

Today I'm answering FAQs about marriage. (That dweam wifin a dweam.)

Spoiler status: ALL of these questions contain Graceling spoilers, which is why I'm separating this paragraph from the questions themselves with a delightful picture of my youngest fan, whose name is Callum. If you don't want to know what happens in Graceling, STOP READING!



(Okay, yes, I take spoilers more seriously than perhaps is necessary. ^_^)

1. Will Katsa and Po ever get married?
I never, ever discuss future plot things, except with my editor, my agent, and my official First Readers. This is partly because (1) until a first draft is written, I need to be free to have it to myself, without the interference of anyone else -- without the pressure of other people's questions, worries, opinions, or expectations. It needs to be my book and only my book, my business and only my business. That is the only way a book can grow. It's also partly because (2) before a book goes to typesetting, anything is subject to change.

So I'll never, ever answer a question like this. (Which I doubt will surprise anyone. ^_^)

However, I do have a counter-question. My question is: Why do you ask? Do they need to be married for their relationship to be genuine? I challenge you to think about this. Bounce it around. See where it lands.

2. I love the themes of choice, independence, and sacrifice in Graceling. It was refreshing to read about a heroine whose purpose wasn’t necessarily to “get married and settle down.” That said, I do still love a “happily ever after” ending. For the first time (ever) I felt like I got equal measure of independence and HEA (lo and behold, they are not mutually exclusive!). I love that! So my question is – was independence + HEA your goal from the beginning or did the characters just fall into place that way?
Awesome question. The simple answer is both: my characters fell into place that way from the very beginning. I knew Katsa was dedicated to her independence and I knew she was going to fall in love. It was, very simply, who Katsa was and where Katsa was headed when she came to me. (And it also made for a really fun conflict to write! ^_^)

I suppose I could say more, but I'm not sure where to go with it, and I don't want to bore everyone to tears. If you have follow-up questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I'll be be happy to think about them and maybe say more in future.

3. Some of your online reader reviews say that Graceling has an anti-marriage message. Do you have a response to that?
Well, normally I would say that I don't want to get into it, because I don't think my opinion, as the author, really matters. And I respect any reader's right to his or her own opinion! However, if I were to express a few thoughts of my own, they might sound a little something like this....

First, some facts: there are some existing, steady marriages quietly depicted in the book. There is also one, single, solitary character who feels that marriage is not the right choice personally for her. Remember, Katsa herself doesn't try to stop other people from marrying; she even hopes for happy marriages for other people. Them's the facts.

I didn't write Graceling with any particular messages in mind. But if it does have a message, I hope it's not anti-marriage, but rather, pro- "being true to yourself." I think that being true to yourself sometimes -- not always, but sometimes -- means thoughtfully, intelligently choosing to take a route that differs from the norm.

Here is something that Jon and Rumer Godden (writers for both children and adults) wrote in their book Two Under the Indian Sun: "We knew that marriage was not the only kind of love."

If Katsa and Po find a way to relate to each other that works for them and that involves self-respect, mutual respect, self-examination, mutual delight, mutual regard, and honest communication, how can their relationship be a bad thing?

I invite my readers to discuss this in the comments, but I feel that I've said enough -- maybe more than an author should. So I'll be reading, but not joining in.

Also, I'd like to thank Sarah, Deborah, Sam, and Becca for helping me, way back in October, to formulate my response to this question!


Anonymous said…
What a cute picture!

I think the fact that you made independence and the happily ever after mesh in this book was what made me like it so much too, now that I come to think about it.

I really need sleep.
Unknown said…
I'm totally cool with a character who does not feel the need for marriage. I found that realistic--especially because one of my best friends is that way.


My issue with Katsa and her relationships and anti-marriage stance was in that I felt she did not grow that much as a character. (And, this is all just my opinion--I really loved the book and am only commenting on this since you asked--these were my thoughts while reading but they did not in anyway diminish the way I enjoyed the book).

Anyway, Katsa started out so anti-marriage, anti-children, and so awkward in relationships that I totally believed her as a character. She felt that her Grace made her un-lovable, and that made sense. However, once she met and fell in love with Po and realized those feelings were mutual, I started looking in the book for her to evolve and grow as a character, for her to realize that she was lovable. And although her relationship did get to a stage where she accepted love, I still felt that she had not grown up quite as much as I had expected.

When I read a book that has a fairy tale happily ever after ending, I look at the (too quick) marriage to the Prince at the end as childish and a bit demoralizing to women. There's no growth there--the princess character is just falling in lines with the moires of society and taking the easy way out.

But for Katsa, marriage would have been growth. Falling into lines of somewhat social normalcy would have been a huge leap for the girl who thought she'd always be an outsider.

Not that she needed marriage. But once I realized that the love between her and Po was true and real, and when I thought about how she was shifting from a complete and total outsider who sort of hated herself, I expected her to accept that she could be married, instead of being so pig-headedly against marriage (especially considering that I felt her reasons for being against it were within her mind and had become invalid as she grew as a character).

On the other hand, doesn't pig-headed pretty much describe Katsa all around? ;)

This really is just my opinion, and, like I said, I still loved the book, plan on reading the sequels, etc. That's just my impression :)
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for answering my question (#2)! When I saw it I nearly shouted YAY from my office cube.

Katsa's independence is my favorite part in Graceling. I love how she demonstrates that it’s ok to choose what’s right for her even if it isn’t the norm. It seems like so many people feel that the world and its rules are thrust upon them and they are forced to go with the norm or be unhappy. Happiness comes from within. Happiness comes from making the choice that’s right for you regardless of the norm.

Also, Katsa is a dynamic character without Po. Yes, I have a huge Po crush, but I believe that if Po wasn’t in Graceling Katsa’s would still have an amazing story. If Po were gone Katsa’s life would continue. In my opinion, some teens and adults place too much of their self-worth in other’s existence. I love Katsa’s example here. I’ve recommended Graceling to every boy-obsessed-teen-girl I know and pray that the tiniest smidge of Katsa will rub off.

Thank you again Kristin! Congratulations on all the awards and nominations! :o) I’m so happy for you, Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue!
Anonymous said…

I see your point about growth, but I don't agree with it. Katsa originally sees two choices available to her: the choice made available to anyone with a killing grace (being an assassin and torturer), and the choice made available to any woman (wearing pretty dresses, caring about her hair, and getting married). She starts at the beginning of the book unhappy with both, so settling for the first and trying to subvert it. But by the story's end, she realizes that there are other paths available to her: survival, love, friendship outside of rebellion, helping Bitterblue. She grows beyond the limited scope of either set.

One of my absolute favorite parts of this book is that it shows that a healthy adult relationship doesn't need to conclude with marriage to be complete, to show growth. The idea that marriage is the appropriate punctuation mark to love for everybody is, well... I get annoyed at books which are all identical, which show the same character arcs for every young adult. Katsa is different, and that's why I love her. She grows, but not like everyone else.

(And it's not like she's that different. She's still young woman who over the course of a book develops a sense of self-worth, the initiative to take control of her life, and love for a young nobleman. Pretty standard stuff, just with a new spin.)
Pam said…
I don't think marriage would have been appropriate for Katsa at the point at which the book ended. She wasn't there yet - and maybe never will be. I was totally satisfied with her growth as a character. That she could accept and return Po's love was enough for me. And Bitterblue was in some respects a surrogate daughter to the girl who had no interest in children. I got as much enjoyment out of the K/BB relationship as I did out of the K/Po relationship.
Caitlín said…
Awesome post! Reading made me remember exactly why and how much I loved Graceling. I actually own a copy now, but have yet to read because I want it to stay nice. :-D

Beth -
I found that in overcoming her struggles to even admit that she was lovable and worthy, Katsa did of plenty of changing. It takes people a lot to change--I don't know anyone who can change in a snap, even if they want to and are trying--and I think that inability to change is part of what made Katsa's character so real to me. In my opinion, if she'd suddenly gone to "I want to get married!" it would have been too "perfect," if marriage is perfection. And maybe there is a reason why Katsa so deeply fears marriage that is yet to be explored.
Anonymous said…
Katsa's distaste for marriage was one of the reasons I loved her. I don't think it was the sole reason and it actually didn't feel important enough that I even thought much about it, and I can see Beth's point about her growth...but I like the fact that she didn't change so much that she wound up with a sappy standard happily ever after.

I think it's one of the strengths of the book, that it stays different and yet in a way that I think plenty of teenage girls (and this middle-aged single mom!) can relate to and don't often see reflected in the world.

There's such a drive to pair people up, usually. I had a casual acquaintance try to match-make for me the other day, and I had to tell her that I'm happy being single, I don't want to ever be married again. And it's not because my marriage was some big nightmare that I haven't overcome, it's because I LIKE being single, because I enjoy my solitude and my independence and my freedom.

People say, oh, you're going to wind up alone, and I suggest they go look in a senior citizens center--most women do wind up alone, the question is only how they spent the intervening years. And spending them the way Katsa does, without marriage, but with friends, a lover, worthwhile work, independence, seems pretty reasonable to me. Actually, more than that--it looks like a realistic happily ever after ending, much more realistic than a marriage ceremony would provide.

I did wonder how Katsa would deal with a pregnancy, though. I'm guessing that's not an area that you intend to explore, but even though the thought scares her, I bet she'd make a really good mom. Her protectiveness toward Bitterblue would be matched up with the fierce love mothers have, and the perplexing confusion when our kids are totally different from our selves...it would be a fun book. Maybe skip the pregnancy part and jump straight toward Katsa having a mystifyingly cheerful, well-adjusted, happy-go-lucky, not interested in fighting eight-year old. It'd be fun!
Jeanne said…
I thought Katsa was implicitly compared to Queen Elizabeth I of England, who didn't marry because in her day that would have meant ceding power to a male partner.
Anonymous said…
I just wanted to say that like many of the commenters here, I also liked Katsa more for not wanting to get married. It was entirely refreshing, in our Sex and the City, Twilight world, to have a heroine not care for the big white dress.
Artemis Grey said…
I am completely empathetic with Katsa on marriage and in her relationship. She is the only character in any book I have ever read (and I've been reading for twenty-six years) who really echoes my own personality and beliefs, although Katsa is actually, believe it or not, a bit softer than I am where men and relationships with them are concerned. I've been told my whole life "You'll grow up and fall in love" "You'll fall for someone" "One day, it'll just hit you" The truth is that I AM grown up, and if I live another eighty years and never fall in love or get married, it won't make me less grown up and it won't inhibit my spiritual or emotional growth.
I wouldn't have Katsa any other way and I think that she grew immensely within the book while at the same time maintaining the edge that made her Katsa and not simoly a girl that started out different than other girls and then saw the light and fell into line with all the other little ducks getting married. The very act of getting married takes a certain wildness out of someone, takes a certain independence away from them, for better or worse. Them's the facts, as our host blogger said.
Anonymous said…
Deciding not to get married is no less mature than deciding to get married. Marriage is not an automatic pinnacle of maturity; it depends on the person and situation.
tinkandalissa said…
I have to say that I dont think they need to be married for their relationship to be genuine. The feeling I got from reading was that the idea of marriage was much more important to Po thank to Katsa, who above all else values her freedom. But Po respects her and loves her SO much that her happiness is worth his sacrafice of calling her his wife (which is just a title anyway, and doesnt always change how a relationship works). Being blinded made Po feel weak and he would NEVER force her to be burdened by him.
Aside from that observation, which could be completely incorrect - I dont care one way or the other about marriage! That's what makes reading different books FUN! The characters are DIFFERENT! I always said I would never get married or have kids. I have my own opinions that are the reasoning in my mind for that. But, I did get married 6 yrs ago in a very oppostite-Katsa move. I sacraficed my feeling of "freedom" to make my now hubby happy because marriage was important to him. He never would have forced the issue even for his own happiness. I am VERY self-sufficient and being so is extremely important to me (being raised by my widowed grandmother who is an extremely strong independent woman). My husband respects that about me and of course likes to feel "needed" but understands and loves me enough to know there are certain thinks I CANT/WONT budge on. That's what makes me me and what makes Katsa who she is. So, I dont think this book is anti-marriage at all. Besides, there are PLENTY of VERY long term healthy relationships out there that dont involve marriage! Love and sex do not HAVE to equal marriage and children.
To those who thought that Katsa didnt grow enough -
This is just the beginning of her tale - not the end! There could be plenty more growth to come. She went through a lot in this book and grew enormously in my opinion.

I do have to mention that I totally didnt think Po would stay blind, so the happily ever after was bittersweet for me. I still LOVED the characters and the book very much!
Go Kristin!!
Lula! said…
Any post's title that references The Princess Bride is guaranteed to be a win for me.

OK, here's my two cents...

I love Buttercup & Wesley and their happily ever after. I defy anyone to say they preferred that story/movie end with Buttercup marrying Humperdink. I mean, seriously.

I love Edward and Bella and their happily ever after. The outcry of horror and the vitriol spewed at Stephenie Meyer when she chose to end her saga the way she did utterly amazed me. It's her story, therefore her license to write charaters however she determines.

I also love Katsa and Po...and whatever comes next for them, whether it involves marriage or not. Because it's YOUR story, Kristin. I'm just along for the ride, which I've enjoyed tremendously thus far. If their journey leads them toward marriage I'll be front row at that ceremony, in my mind at least. Should they decide to part ways, or spend a lifetime together having hot sex, and remaining sparring partners, then fine by me. Regardless, I'll read what you write. Because again, it's YOUR story. I trust you to remaing faithful to your vision involving these characters. What you write, I'll read. End of story.

p.s. Have fun storming the castle!
Anonymous said…
I think the conflict with marriage is a characteristic that makes katsa unique. Untill i read the book i didn't understand how someone would want to be with a person forever but hate the idea of having to be with them for ever. Now i understand how that is possible. I would like add that this books multiple conflicts and strong charectors make this book great. This is my third time reading the book and i am still entertaind. I may know what is going to happen but the amount of emotions and details in this book makes you want to read it again. I can't wait till fire!!!
Unknown said…
As someone who wants to pursue a publishing career (to be an editor, not necessarily an author), I perceived the marriage issue from a more industry-oriented perspective:

I also liked the book because of the author's honest approach to sexuality and marriage. Given Katsa's fierce nature, it's not really much of a spoiler to reveal that there are no wedding bells and traditional happily-ever-afters, and all I have to say is, thank God. Don't get me wrong. I think marriages are the best thing in the world if the couple themselves deem it so, and I myself am a sucker for them in stories (e.g. Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword). But in my opinion, the YA market (dominated by *cough* Twilight *cough*), is dominated by marriage and idealistic happily-ever-afters, and I find the author brave for charting uncharted waters with a heroine who doesn't want to marry. How can two people be together and not lose sight of themselves? Should they care if other people can't define what their relationship is? Does being intimate require one to be married,or at least committed? These are hard questions that adolescents, especially teenage girls, should think about. It helps to have books like this one serve not as a guidebook, but as a picture of what an alternative to marriage can look like.

Anonymous said…
I must say that I'm loving the comments! This is such a critical issue that seems to get glossed over much too often. When a female protag is *nothing* without her male hero it's just wrong. Preach it ladies!
tinkandalissa said…
I just had to add that after re-reading my entry which was typed hurriedly at work...damn I cant spell today, but I think my point still came across.
Marcy said…
In some ways my problem with it was the same as Beth's. Not that I didn't feel she grew enough as a character, but it did feel to me like she didn't want to marry Po because of some residual fear and emotional scarring, and she was rationalizing that fear. That's perfectly realistic, I'm fine with that, I was just a little sad for her. Sometimes the best part of a relationship is giving yourself up for the other person -- not totally and completely, not losing yourself, that's not healthy. But changing who you are to some extent, sure. Consciously sacrificing for them. Not becoming a "martyr", but giving of yourself when it's needed. Oh, and not because marriage is the "automatic pinnacle of maturity," either, I would never say that. If she had never even met Po, she could still grow into an amazing, beautiful person.

I am biased because I do believe in waiting to have sex until after marriage, but I don't really expect anyone outside my religion to agree with me (including Katsa!). It's been interesting reading the comments, I can see why some of you would love her staying single.
Anonymous said…
I don't have much more to say on Katsa's attitudes towards marriage at the moment, but I did pick up on a language thing which may deserve attention.

Some people speak of the changes a character undergoes as "growth", while others speak of "development." To me, at least, growth implies a direction toward a goal. This may be especially relevant for a character like Katsa, who is 18 or so, which may set up an expectation of being a child at the start of the book and an adult at the end of the book.

Development implies a more non-directed change to me. If a character is different at the end of the book than at the beginning, they have undergone development, even if the change is negative or regressive.

I hesitate to say this for fear of overgeneralization, but I feel like people who are disappointed that Katsa does not marry Po by the end of the book are more likely to speak in terms of growth. People who speak of character development are more likely to accept Katsa's outcome, regardless of what it happens to be.

I feel like I'm out of my depth in talking about this, but I'm curious if other people have thoughts on growth vs. development and the implications, if any, on expectations for marriage for Katsa's character.
Kristin Cashore said…
For the record: I'm loving the comments. Thanks to everyone, seriously.

(Lula? Something for you: ♥)

Faith said…
I think that Katsa not getting married shows YAs that there *really* are other choices out there. That a mutual respect and love is what really matters not what a piece of paper says. I think it would have been forced if Katsa and Po married in the end.
Stacey said…
here's my answer to your question why do we want to know if Katsa and Po get married.

I never really thought about it before i read your post today. it didnt really matter to me either way at the end of Graceling because that wasn't where that particular story was going and i was good with where their story ended, but now that you asked me to think about i have hehe. I think for me why i wonder if they will ever get married stems from why Katsa is so anti-marriage for herself. I see Katsa as a character that's still evolving and is still growing. and i think her and Po's relationship got to the point that it did because she grew as a person and how she views herself is/was changing. She's not seeing herself as only the strong are of a king any more, she's finally able to figure out who she is as an individual and to be able to delve into her own emotions and thoughts on herself. Before she saw herself as one dimensional she did what her uncle said to do and that was it, she didnt deal with stuff beyond that. the council and those tasks allowed her to start the journey in finding herself and i think Po helped her take a HUGE leap forward. The old saying goes you can't love till you love yourself, and i think that's true with Katsa. She's learning to love herself and there for is learning to love Po and i see them getting married as kind of like the final evolution for Katsa, that she finally loves herself enough the allow someone to love her enough to marry her. I'm excited to see her growth in Bitterblue and see how her and Po's relationship evolves. and to see if this theory holds true hehe.

so thats why i think its interesting story line for the future and why i think people are interested in if it happens or not. I will be totally happy if they stay in the current state they are because i think it'll show that she isnt perfect and she has issues and she's a normal person in that way, but like i said, i'm eagerly awaiting Bitterblue to to see the evolution of the characters because you have written characters with depth that draw me in and make me care about their future and think about what marriage would mean to a relationship between 2 characters.
Unknown said…
Wow, reading this whole marriage discussion just shows me how a different background changes your perspective on a book.
For me as a German/European it was a complete non-issue. Before reading these questions and answers, I didn't even think about the book having any kind of message on marriage.
This shows me once again how different N-American culture is, although it seems to be similar to ours on the surface.
Anonymous said…
It seems to me that the issue is less "is Katsa ready for marriage?" and more "is marriage ready for Katsa?" The definition of marriage is a big topic in the U.S. right now (see all the rhetoric about giving full rights to gay couples as "redefining" marriage). It's easy to think of marriage as the end of the line, the final stop in a mature relationship, but it seems to me that it comes with a lot more baggage than that.

And if it's baggagey now, how much more so is it in Katsa's pseudo-medieval society, particularly for royalty? Instead of redefining the loaded institution of "marriage" to suit the relationship she and Po want (which is nearly impossible anyway -- societal pressures are tough stuff), Katsa rejects the label entirely. And I love her for it! :)

(And, in case anyone cares, that's exactly what I think we ought to do: rather than trying to "redefine marriage" (whatever that means), the state's legal recognition of a relationship should be called a civil union, and it should apply equally to everyone, gay or straight. Leave anything called "marriage" up to churches and spirituality, so they can define it however they want.)

Sam, making everything about politics (sorry!)
Hi Kristin and other readers...

I haven't read all of the comments, so I apologize if I state something that has already been said. Also, I've been participating in a quite a fun discussion with another reader about this topic on GoodReads that I wish I could forward on to all of you.

Anyway, my thought about Katsa and marriage was that she did not have to have a marriage to have a loving relationship with Po, and I liked the decision they came to in the end.

However, it bothers me that Katsa seems to think she is defined by a title and that she can't be herself if she is married. Personally, this is something I've worked hard on since I got married twelve years ago, and it's something I hope to impress on both of my children. I may be someone's wife, but I am not just a wife. I'm a daughter, a friend, a sister, a teacher, a writer, a dancer, and a mother, and at the core of all of those things, I am still me. My mother always taught me that no matter how old I get, what I accomplish in life, or what titles I may have, I'm still an individual and am not defined by any of those things.

So no, I don't think Katsa HAS to get married to Po, but if she is only NOT marrying him because she seems to feel defined by this title or concept of marriage and thinks she will lose her identity, well, I would love to see her mature and grow to realize that you can be married to a person and remain true to yourself.

As for having a Po crush (someone mentioned that in another comment), I definitely have one because he is ideal in that if there is a male character out there who would respect his girl's identity and always want her to remain true to herself, it would be Po. What I loved about Po is that he is so respectful of who Katsa is and does not want to change her. He doesn't tell her how to think or what to feel; he lets her be herself, and he accepts her for who she is. So yes, if she was going to marry anyone, he is the ideal man to marry because he wouldn't define her simply as his wife or try to constrain her, and in a healthy, happy marriage (or at least the kind I want anyway), this is possible.

One other thing I was thinking about in regards to Katsa and her idea of marriage and this identity issue: to preserve one's identity in a married relationship (or any relationship, I suppose), I think it requires mutual respect from both people involved, but I also think it requires self-confidence, and I'm wondering if Katsa doesn't have enough of that YET. She is young, and I loved the growth we have seen with her thus far; she has learned to love and let her guard down, and she has learned to express her emotions in a way that she wasn't able to before. Still, is she able to trust in herself and see that she will always be that same girl regardless of whether she marries, has children, etc. ??? It's just a thought.

And finally, I read this book a month ago and it still hasn't left my mind. Katsa is a great protagonist and falls for a graet guy. She is a determined, independent girl who I find to be inspiring, and Po is the type of guy we all want to be with...someone who is respectful and appreciates Katsa for who she is and never forces her to become something she isn't in thought or action. I look forward to seeing them both continue to grow and can't wait to read more of their story! Just keep them together...please! :)

One last thing after reading some comments:

I didn't think the book had a message against marriage. I just thought it was about the character, and at the end of Graceling, I didn't think Katsa was ready for marriage. In fact, I think I would have been disappointed had she married Po in Graceling because it didn't seem fitting for her development at that time, and I don't think she is ready for that at this point.

I can see it happening in her future, but I wasn't expecting it at the end of Graceling. I was flying along just hoping she would find Po again and that yes, they would be together, but the marriage didn't seem right just yet. In the future, that would be great though. Anything really, as long as they are together!
Kristin Cashore said…
Anja, thanks so much for the German/European perspective -- which, to me, is always a breath of fresh air!

(Oh, and by the way, Po will be named Bo in the German edition, heh heh)
Robert said…
Plenty of minor comments and side-trails I'd enjoy exploring on this topic, but to avoid rambling too much, I'll try to just quickly hit the main point.

I'm not generally one to throw a book across the room in anger at a character (or author) because of a choice the character made. In that sense, I have no problem with Katsa's choice - the whole story was an enjoyable read. However, as someone who generally prefers it when the characters I read about do what *I* think they OUGHT to do, given what I know about them to that point - sure, I was disappointed Katsa still seems so blindly anti-marriage by the end of the book.

Katsa seems to want to be with Po forever but not to COMMIT to being with Po forever... more, I got the feeling she WANTS to commit (verbally) to being with Po forever... as long as it doesn't involve the word marriage! It feels like an internal, illogical, issue or hangup with the idea of marriage, rather than a battle between independence and Po. Or, worse, like she's IGNORING the issue if there IS a conflict between independence and Po, and just trying to have both and hope they can co-exist without daring to examine the idea at all.

In the usual game I'm sure we all play of "what I would tell [whomever]", I would want Katsa to understand that she should forget about all her preconceived notions of marriage IN GENERAL, and consider how she and Po would define marriage and whether she wants THAT! She seems to think she trusts that Po would never take away her independence, and that she does want to be with him forever, yet says she doesn't want marriage because she wants to be independent?! There's illogic there, and Katsa needs to sit down and decide what it is she TRULY wants, and what it is she truly fears, and whether she TRULY trusts Po completely.

Under the path she seems to be taking currently, while the relationship WORKS and is healthy ENOUGH... I would fear that Po is the one who gets hurt the most when Katsa's hidden motive or conflict finally surfaces. Or, to flip it around, if Katsa deep down DOES want to be with Po for all time, and DOES trust Po won't take away her independence, then Po is the one being hurt (slightly) NOW because of Katsa's inability to trust him fully and commit entirely to their relationship.

But, of course, that's all a very subjective read of Katsa's internal character and motivations, and regardless it made for a good story, and it'll be interesting to see how and to what extent Katsa addresses this overall issue in later books.
cindy said…
loved the answer questions. also loved the totally loopy warning about spoilers. ha!

i felt that katsa behaved true to herself and her character in all her actions. yes, maybe she does still have some residual fear about marriage. but that doesn't mean her love for PO isn't true.

it's nearly impossible not to read a book and cast our own morals and thoughts on the matter. it's what makes the entire experience so personalized.

great discussion!
Anonymous said…
Hi, I loved Graceling. Recently I have read “Bitten” by Kelley Armstrong, and her main character reminded me a little of Katsa, in how both need to be in control of their lives and both have some commitment issues. I recommend the read, if you have not read it, and understand if you’re too busy to read it. Thanks for listening!

Anonymous said…
When I read Question #3, I was a bit taken aback, because I saw nothing anti-marriage in Graceling. To me, it was empowering to women who don't want to get married and have babies.

In so many books, in so many films, in pop culture all around us, it seems that the ultimate goal of love is marriage and babies and that when someone doesn't have that goal, they are seen as a bit weird or even unnatural.

So, to see a strong female character who finds love that doesn't culminate in marriage and babies... well, it's refreshing, and, like I said, empowering.

There's more than one way to experience and express love.
Anonymous said…
This is my 1st blog entry so if I do something wrong, I just want to apologize now.

Here is a shout out to Kristin saying "You rock!". Reading Graceling for me as a 35 year old (not sure what the YA age limit) was one of the best reads ever (and I guess you could say I'm a book whore so that is saying something). Also, just reading what you write on your blog page is very interesting. You are graced with the ability to write no matter what it is.

I love Katsa and her independent bull-headedness but I would not feel especially terrible if she married (I would love her the same). I think it would be more interesting to see or rather read about Katsa and Po's child and whether he or she would be graced. The best thing about reading fiction is not knowing what the future may hold.

Another tidbit, I think this would make an awesome movie (do you already have a movie deal in the works?). I wonder what actress should play Katsa and what actor PO? Nothing can compare to the movie in my mind but I think Kate Beckinsdale would make a great Katsa and maybe Johnny Depp as Po...

I have referred Graceling to numerous people and they have all fallen in love with it (ages 25-65). I tell them it is YA and they just can't believe it.

Keep up the great writing and may the force be with you!
mbpbooks said…
Congratulations, Kristin, on all you have accomplished with this novel. I just finished it, and am looking forward to more!

Sarah Rettger sent me here as I, too, loved the book but was asking questions about sex, love, and marriage in a fantasy novel.

I wasn't sure what it meant for Katsa and Po WITHIN THE WORLD YOU CREATED to have sex outside of the bounds of marriage.

I know what that act would mean/cost in rural India, and in Boston, Massachusetts, but it seemed to me that K. and P. barely considered societal, familial, or spiritual ramifications regarding their decision to have sex that night.

Was the view of sex before marriage different in the Leonid kingdom or the same throughout all of the realms?

That made me wonder if an educated, urban/suburban North American cultural view of sex and marriage shared by most of the readers (and the writer) of the story had taken over the fantasy culture I was so enjoying.

What about Po's perspective (can you tell I have teen sons)? How did he feel about her not marrying him and yet being so intimate? Wasn't this the first time that he had given himself so wholly?

Obviously Po and Katsa's decision to have sex makes good fodder for discussion with teens, because they are wholly engaging characters and you have managed to make us all care about them.

Lastly but not leastly, I love, love, love the book's insights and exploration of POWER. So much to think about there. I could write a whole blog post about that. I just might.

Thank you, Kristin, for listening and caring and asking questions as you keep telling excellent stories for teens.
Kristin Cashore said…
Mitali, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! (And thanks for all your kind words -- and interesting questions for me to ponder...)

Pens said…
Hi Kristin,

Just finished Graceling-what a fantastic world you have crafted, I absolutely loved it. You have created such wonderful and compelling characters and a riveting story. Katsa’s voice is just so true and spot on-love her. Interesting questions in this post about marriage. I think your question about why so many people ask about marriage for Katsa and Po is because we love these characters and want a HEA for them, and that is traditionally what is associated with a HEA for many people. Maybe the reader wants a ‘guarantee’ that they will be together forever, although of course marriage is not that.

I do think though that Katsa’s interpretation of marriage is limited, and understand the earlier post about how accepting it might show the growth of her character. Marriage does not have to mean answering to someone or being trapped, although the world you have created appears to be a traditional one, Po does not seem like a ‘traditional’ guy.

To some extent it is true that your freedom is more limited when you are married, but that goes both ways, not just for the woman in a (in this case) heterosexual relationship. Marriage can be on one’s own terms, you can have permanence and independence, they are not mutually exclusive, which I think is something Katsa does not see (yet). I wonder how her lack of self-esteem (she views herself as a brute at times) plays into all of this as well. Ultimately, I strongly believe that happiness is only meaningful when shared, and her ability to increasingly form attachments to people is a very good thing I think.

Having said all that, I loved how your wrote her conflict and thought the ending was perfect  Looking forward to more from you in the future.
Anonymous said…
I can understand why Katsa fears to get married, but I think that marriage is the ideal, healthy and mature outcome of true love. It is a challenge to overcome fear, pride, selfishness, and to dare to love one person exclusively for life. You can't have it both ways. The strongest, most intimate love involves just two people. If you are intimate with more than one living person at a time; trust, intimacy, and passion are diluted. When you are crazy in love with a person, it is scary, it's misery being separated from them, your heart is in their hands. It would kill you to find that they didn't feel as strongly, or that they were also involved emotionally or sexually with another person. To be happy in a relationship you need trust. How can you trust a person who won't marry you? Living together is a recipe for heartbreak. Both of you are saying that you don't want to commit to this relationship, and then, if you do get married, there are still trust issues, because how do you know the other person won't break the "rules" when they were willing to before.
Also, Having children takes courage and if you really love someone and you love the wonder of the two of you together, you want to see the beautiful children that would come from that. I never wanted to be pregnant when I was young, or married. Yuck and double yuck, was my opinion. However, there came a time for both, when I was ready. I decided that they were both worth the risk and the sacrifice. Nothing worthwhile comes without cost. By the way, I have been married since 1988, and it just keeps getting better and better. As a teen I used to wonder how anyone could spend 50-60 years with one person. Now I realize that a lifetime isn't long enough. But you need to be the right person and marry the right person - for keeps.
Btw, Katsa would make a terrific mother, and can you imagine how awesome her and Po's child/children would be?
Marriage isn't what makes a relationship, nor is it the culmination of commitment and understanding. It's a thousand things to a thousand different people.

One thing is true for sure, though - without a good relationship, the marriage founders and is but a pale shadow.

For me, in many ways, Po and Katsa are "married" more than a lot of folks that actually go through the whole process and are officially so. I don't see how something legal and/or official would enhance their relationship necessarily, or ensure that they would be devoted.

I've put a lot of thought into this over the course of my life, having been married myself. I have to say that I don't believe it's correct to say that without marriage you have no commitment, or that you can't trust someone. Marriage isn't a confirmation of trust. An affirmation of it, perhaps, but it's quite easy to have a long-enduring and devoted relationship without it. You can love someone for life and be devoted completely to them without a legal piece of paper saying that you are.

I didn't get an anti-marriage message from the book at all. I did get one saying for some folks, they are perfectly content and devoted without legal nuptials- and that's just as affirming and important to some as getting married.

People can grow and flourish in a relationship, evolving together, commited together, without ever being married. Not knocking you folks that are happily married, but a lot of people who aren't have those same experiences, depths of emotion, and commitments that you do. Trust is not defined, or augmented, by a marriage. Love isn't, either.

People are what make relationships work. Marriage is just one tool in the box for doing so.
Unknown said…
maryjf: that may be true for you, but it's pretty condescending to generalize it to everyone else. Really, the majority of couples in the U.S. and Europe aren't committed (most people live together before marriage)? All those people are constantly worrying that their partners might cheat because they lived together before marriage? Really, people who don't want to have children aren't committed? REALLY? You're welcome to feel that way, but I don't and don't tell me I should.

And I have intimate relationships with many people--friends, family, and my partner. I don't feel that any of them are diluted by the others; and I know plenty of people who don't feel that having multiple romantic relationships (please note: with consent of all parties, not cheating) "dilutes" anything. Love is not finite.

I, for one, was thrilled to--for once--see a romance portrayed without marriage as the inevitable end. Thanks, Ms. Cashore.
Anonymous said…
LOVED the book! Thank you.

Glad there wasn't an instant Happily Ever After. But the "I'm never getting married" stance is not entirely satisfying long-term. It seemed like more of Po's patience and wisdom with Katsa's emotional fears/hurt.

Maybe marriage isn't the ultimate goal for everyone. But I feel it would be the next step in her character development to work through her emotional/psychological fears.

When you love someone that dearly, you're eventually willing to commit and make sacrifices to be in the same place. Being in different places becomes just not an option any more. I'm very interested to know what happens to them emotionally while they are apart, and how their relationship is defined.

Every time there was a reveal, I had to go back and re-read with my new understanding, and see all the little clues. Some reveals I saw coming. Others were more surprising. But it was very fun, all the details. And the emotional development was very well done.

This book should get an award. I look forward to reading more!

Jessica said…
So to start off, Graceling is one of the most amazing books I've read and I've read a lot. I absolutely love the humanity of the characters, their flaws and imperfections, their struggles, and their personalities. I also love how each charater's individual personality and charateristics attributes to the story as a whole. It's extraordinary how the story has depth, a way you can look beyond the printed words to find a people, another world, and a place of possibilities.
Anyway I personaly believe that Kasta's personal beliefs create her personality. I'm proud of how she sticks to what she personally believes in for herself when so many are swayed by the words of others. I also think it's great how Po is understanding and patient and loves her anyway. Love the book and the character structure.
M.S. said…
M: I respect your opinion, but think your argument is based more on emotion than reason or truth. You say it’s condescending for one person’s opinion to apply to everyone else. In many cases, that is true. But I get a little bit nervous when I hear statements like that – because, although you may not realize it, they imply that when you come down to it, there is no right or wrong. I guess we should let the serial killers out of prison now – I’m sure each of them could explain why he or she thought those murders were justifiable. A culmination of social, psychological, and even genetic factors led each to the conclusion that he should kill this person or that person. Okay. Well, as long as they had their reasons…

I am not equating having sex outside of marriage with mass murder, although I strongly believe in saving physical intimacy until after marriage and keeping true to one’s partner. I’m just saying that an objective moral standard exists, at least in a lot of cases.

Also, I am curious as to how having multiple romantic relationships works, “with consent of all parties, not cheating.” It was my impression that most people would not like sharing their partners with others. Love as an ideal may not be finite, but in the real world, love between humans is limited. Humans are generally selfish creatures. They want their partners’ complete attention, devotion, and sacrifice; not what’s left over after time is spent with another partner.

Finally, I want to add that I don’t think that all people who lived together before marrying are worried that their partners will cheat because they lived together before marriage, and I don’t think maryjf was suggesting that either. It’s just that people in general tend to be worried about their partners’ fidelity – but if one’s partner is willing to wait until after marrying to have sex, even if he/she wants it a lot, then the odds are good that that relationship has something special to it. The partners involved probably won’t have to worry as much about loyalty issues as most people, because each knows that the other isn't led easily astray in search of sexual gratification.
Anonymous said…
First off let me say that I think you are all going too far with this marriage thing. I am 15 years old and well let me just point out that this book was meant for us younger readers. At no point you must understand am i saying that you shouldnt read Graceling or any of Cashore's fantastic book(s) but you must simply think that we are young and not exactly thinking about getting married. Its a fantasy book meant for us to read for fun not for advice or guidance of any kind the way you seem to put it. I love Katsa and Po and their relationship its quite realistic(despite their abilities) and in the future i would love to see them married or at least with a child of some sort. It is pleasing to read amd know that you can find comfort in a happy ending because frankly we arent dumb and we know that in this day and age everyone isnt going to get married and stay together.WE also know that us females have to be independent but that doesnt mean we have to be alone the way you want Katsa to be. It also isnt fair to PO to have to be second best in Katsa's heart. I think you are being way too feminist in this matter i mean for goodness sake its a teenager book leave it alone! WOuld i like to see them married? YES but if not then ok I will love it regardless because Kristin Is a great writer and im sure she will do THE BEST SHE CAN on Bitterblue! LOve Niina Your biggest fan
Robin said…
I loved the book.

I also wished that in the end, Katsa had been able to give more of herself.
Judy said…
I absolutely loved Graceling. I can't wait to see what happens between Katsa and Po's relationship and with Bitterblue.
Shayle said…
I would love to read all these other comments and opinions, but I'm kind of busy right now and so will just (sort of) quickly state my opinion.

I completely disagreed with Katsa's decision. Cashore, you say: "Do they need to be married for their relationship to be genuine?" What I see from your question is a attitude that marriage is simply a label, and not really needed for a relationship. This is true, and yet also false. You can love someone without being married--obviously true. I am not condemning anyone who does not want to be married, does not want to have children, etc., Yet even though Katsa did not want to be married, she pursued her relationship by consummating it. To do that, you must be married. Why? Sex is a part of marriage; it is an "upside" to being married. For Katsa not wanting to be committed by marriage to Po and yet to receive the benefits of marriage, it shows her selfishness, shallowness, and pure childishness. This is further proven by her taking the "seabane" (birth control pills). She wants all the "good stuff" of her choices, but she isn't willing to accept the "bad stuff" that goes with it. This also shows that Katsa and Po have neither morals nor self-control; this caused me to hold Katsa and Po in utter contempt. In my opinion, it seriously degraded what could have been an amazing book.

I was very disappointed.
Unknown said…
I'm late to the party, i'm afraid -- i just read the book not long ago. I'm pretty much totally in agreement with gnomicutterance that Katsa's trying to find a third way, neither hearthbound nor outsider but something entirely her own.

But it seems to me that there is one really important thing that a lot of the commenters are missing here:

The version of "marriage" that Katsa and Po's society has isn't very much like our modern understanding of marriage; it's a lot more like medieval Europe's (or the 18th century US's!) version. That includesthe concept of "couverture", at least implicitly.

The doctrine of couverture says that a woman is "covered" by some man to whom she stands in relationship -- her father first, who "transfers" her to her husband upon marriage. (For reference, most women couldn't even actually own property or hold bank accounts in their own names IN THE USA until the mid-to-late 19th century, unless they were widows.)

From that perspective, there is NO WAY that being married to Po wouldn't change Katsa's relationship to him. Because at that point, whether he does anything about it or not, he *morally* and *legally* OWNS her. (She mentions this at one point, obliquely.) If Po-as-her-husband didn't want her to do something, or go somewhere, or buy some item she wanted, he could say "no", and that no would be LEGALLY BINDING ON HER.

You might say, "He'd never do that!" But the point is, he COULD. He always, always could, and he'd neither one of them would ever forget that.

That's no longer a relationship between equals, it's slavery.

And if you think Katsa would ever be happy as a slave, even if the slavery was mostly theoretical? Well, then, i don't think much of your reading comprehension.

(And if you say, "well, that's just the traditional understanding, they don't have to be traditional" -- then why do you care whether they're "traditional" enough to get married in the first place? We're not talking about their "understanding", we're talking about the legal facts on the ground in Katsa's and Po's world.)

Shayle: your teleology doesn't fly. It's not "selfish" or "immature" to have sex outside of marriage, or without wanting kids. In some cases it is, sure. In some cases getting married and having kids are selfish and immature acts, done without comprehension or consideration. Marriage and kids aren't the be-all and end-all; they're just lifestyle choices. Your religion may teach that, but a lot of us disagree with you.

You're absolutely entitled to be disappointed in the book, and to have "utmost contempt" for poor Katsa and Po -- but i think it's the response of a poor reader, and one who's ideologically blinded to the point of deep stupidity, at that. But! The marvelous thing is, there's room in the world for all of us.

And maryjf: speaking as one of those people who's polyamorous and has in the past been involved in "multiple romantic relationships with the consent of all parties" -- it works for a lot of us. Not all human beings are wired for jealousy, or the desire to be "selfish" and "have someone all to ourselves." Some of us find that having multiple people to practice love and commitment and understanding with -- and extra partners for the job of supporting each other in our sicknesses and our health -- enriches our inmost beings and gives us warm fuzzies.
Unknown said…
And now that i've got the argumentation out of my system, i can only say: Katsa's character, and her continuing resolution to be her own person and not "belong" to anyone, fills me with a deep joy. So does the fact that she finds Po, who really respects her and loves her for who she is -- heck, she can totally kick his ass, and he's not only not "threatened" or "unmanned" by that, he thinks it's AWESOME!

I think that far from being "anti-marriage", this book contains a tremendously positive message for young women: You ARE ENTITLED to make your own choices, to be your own person, AND you are entitled to find a romantic relationship with someone who loves and respects you for your true self and who genuinely believes, with every fiber of his (or her if you're a lesbian) being, that you're an equal partner.

Which is to say, you don't have to drown your individuality, or play stupid, or dress up in ridiculous clothes you don't want to wear, or settle for being ordered around by some guy, or dragged into marriage and babies if it's not what YOU want. You can and SHOULD hold out for a partner who takes you as you are and loves you that way.

I only wish this book had been around when i was thirteen or fourteen. Since i knew even back then that i never wanted to have a husband or children (and almost twenty years and one voluntary sterilization operation on, i haven't changed my mind), all the happily-ever-after cookie-cutter endings for the heroines got awfully damn boring. As did all the statements about "changing my mind" from well-meaning adults.

Graceling would have shaken me right to my shoes and i would have danced for sheer gladness (and I dance like an intellectual, so that's saying something!) I'm so beyond glad that at least it's out NOW, and so perhaps other young women in the situation i was in can find it when they need it most.

So in conclusion, thank you so much, Ms. Cashore. On behalf of all of us outsider young women everywhere.
Shayel said…
You are entitled to your opinion.

But that does not mean that you are right.

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