Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
If you had the power to kill with your bare hands, what would you do with it? Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa's Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power.
There are not enough words to express how much I loved this book - I did not want it to end. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed there will be a sequel, or better yet, a series.
Katsa is the powerful heroine of the story and she is a strong female character. At the beginning of the book, we learn of her "Grace," her special ability - she is able to kill anything or anyone. She learned this when she was 11 years old and she tried to fight off the sexual advances of an uncle. Only meaning to stop her uncle from touching her, Katsa killed him with one blow.
From that moment on, she became the secret weapon of King Randa, trained to be his assassin. Half way through the book, Katsa undergoes a transformation, discovering a strength of character to match her physical strength. I was spellbound watching Katsa blossom from a bitter little girl to a self-assured young lady.
Katsa's eventual romance with Po was heartwarming and very realistic. Although most of the relationship is off screen, parents should give thought to allowing children younger than 14 or 15 read this book. For a 47 year old woman like myself, the romance was captivating.
Although I loved the romantical aspects of the book, I think my favorite thing was the genuine friendship Katsa has with her few friends. Her closeness with Raffin, Oll and Giddon, and later Po and Bitterblue, was refreshing. Katza is full of passion and compassion, and although she could kill someone without a single thought, it pleases her to share her talents and teach others how to fight.
Cashore is a talented writer and although this is her first novel, I feel sure she will be around for a long time. She has given us believable characters with all their flaws intact and she did something many authors aren't able to do - she made me fall in love with the characters. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Although I read a library copy, this is one book I must add to my home library.