Series: Graceling Realm, #1
Author: Kristin Cashore
Pages: 471 (Hardcover)
Release Date: October 1, 2008
In a world where people born with an extreme skill - called a Grace - are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.
When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graces with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
She never expects to become Po's friend.
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
I don't have much experience reading High Fantasy, but I can tell it's a genre that I'm going to end up loving, especially thanks to Graceling. I absolutely loved the idea of Gracelings: humans with "Graces," or heightened talents and gifts. These talents can range from extreme smarts in a particular subject, increased strength, to mind reading. Our main character, Katsa, has the Grace of killing. She could kill a grown man with her bare hands since childhood. Needless to say, she's pretty feared among the Seven Kingdoms. The king of her home kingdom is using her as his own personal assassin, but Katsa tries to incapacitate rather than kill when she can.
Katsa is truly a kick ass heroine! Not just because of her talent for killing, but she also refuses to conform to society's ideals of femininity. She wears trousers and loathes the gowns and jewels she must don for royal dinners. She'd rather run and practice her various fighting skills than take up lady-like pass times. She'll also pass on the tradition of marriage, and ignores all of the suitors her uncle brings to the castle. She reminds me a lot of Katniss from The Hunger Games. Both are skilled fighters, brave, stubborn, and generally unlikeable except by those closest to them.
Normally third person narratives are missing something for me, but in this case it really works. I couldn't imagine it told any other way. The author's writing has an almost fairytale-like quality to it, but I suppose that comes partially with the genre. I was easily engrossed in this story from the very beginning. The plot in the first part of the book is slower in comparison to part two, but I still loved getting to know the characters and trying to figure out who kidnapped Po's grandfather.
The second half is fast paced and exciting! There's a puzzle to be solved, a blossoming romance, plenty of action, and survival elements. It was a lot of fun to see Katsa and Po work out the extents of their Graces and practice on each other. Their romance was also sweet and steamy, although I always had this nagging feeling that it would not end well. Katsa is too stubborn, but Po is super understanding, so maybe they can make it work?
I really enjoyed this one! It has an imaginative world, action, adventure, and romance. All things I love in books. I am sad to learn that the following books don't continue with Katsa and Po, but I am very eager to read more about little Queen Bitterblue.