Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced 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…
Graceling is set in a medieval world, divided into seven kingdoms called Monsea, Leinid, Middluns, Nander, Estill, Sunder, and Wester. Some individuals in this world are “Graced” with different gifts–sometimes harmless Graces, like being good with horses or being super fast, but in some cases they can be deadly. Graced individuals are identified by having two different color eyes, and there is a lot of prejudice in the general population toward those that have these special powers.
Since she was eight years old, Katsa, the niece of King Randa of Middluns has been Graced with the ability to kill with her bare hands–a heavy burden for a young girl. Because of her ability, her uncle uses her to enforce his laws throughout the kingdom. Everyone fears her, and most people keep her at a distance, causing her to be insecure and a bit unladylike.
I really enjoyed the character development in this book Katsa’s insecurities are a great demonstration of how people tend to think their own differences into existence (see: if you think you’re weird, you are–but only because you think you’re weird). In an endearing sort of way, Katsa is like that tomboy who never left the seventh grade. She’s still trying to find herself, and she’s trying to balance that with not wanting to compromise who she thinks she is.
Katsa’s romance was Po was also really endearing. He gives her all the room she needs to be independent (his pet name for her is wildcat), and he doesn’t force her into anything that she doesn’t want to do. I thought it was really interesting that Cashore chose to make Katsa independent enough to not want to get married, as in the world that she was brought up in, this wouldn’t have been kosher.
I actually enjoyed the villain in this book for once (SAY WHAT?!). King Leck is just too messed up for words. I’ve heard a smattering of complaints that he’s bad for the sake of being bad, but the reality is that he’s a sociopath who’s out for power–so there’s his motivation. Dude tortures animals, which is like one of the first signs of being a serial killer. I don’t need more of an explanation for why he’s so evil than that.
I really loved this book, and it’s going to hold a special place in my heart. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy, especially high fantasy. I would rate Graceling five out of five stars.