Katsa has the gift of killing. In her world, people can be born with extreme skill, known as a Grace. Graces can be anything from archery skills to sensing storms to climbing trees, but Katsa is unlucky enough to be skilled at murder. Forced to serve her uncle, King Randa, she is feared by all as the king's killer.
In a world where people are born with an extreme skill--called a Grace--are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a 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 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...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
Not since Tamora Pierce have I read such a good sword-and-sorcery fantasy. The concept of Graces is unique, and varied enough that not all Gracelings are super human. These skills can range from fighting to climbing trees. And because of the more violent Graces, any Graceling is looked down upon and feared, no matter how innocent her Grace may be.
Katsa herself is a feminist heroine in a male-dominant time period. She is capable of taking down an entire army with ease, but balks at marriage because it would tie her down. At one point while she and Po are traveling together, she remarks, "You're welcome to do the hunting yourself. Perhaps I could stay by the fire and mend your socks, and scream if I hear any strange noises." Yet throughout the novel, Katsa must fight her inner demons and learn how to love.
For lovers of fantasy and strong female protagonists, this is definitely a must-read. It is also satisfyingly thick with 471 pages!