Katsa's Grace (a special ability she possesses that is indicated by the dual color of her eyes) rules her entire life. She is Graced with the ability to kill, and is forced to be her corrupt uncle's assassin. Discontent with her life and her actions, she begins the Council, whose mission is to aid and protect citizens from their power hungry and sometimes ruthless leaders. It is while she is on a mission for the Council that Katsa rescues Prince Tealiff, the elderly father of the Lienid king, who has been kidnapped by an unknown enemy. When his grandson Po comes looking for him, Katsa and Po begin a tentative friendship in order to discover who would kidnap a harmless old man, and together discover an insidious plot that would drastically affect the entire land.
Kristin Cashore has created quite a vivid and unique world in Graceling. The concept of Graces is quite fascinating, and is the most enticing aspect of the book. Though Katsa is a strong, interesting, and likable character, it may be hard for readers to really get invested in the book until after 100 or more pages.
But around the middle of Graceling, the pace picks up as Katsa finds her independence and her relationship with Po intensifies. Readers will get swept up in the action as Katsa and Po must confront the source of their troubles against nearly insurmountable odds and race against time. Graceling finishes off with a scene that doesn't quite live up to its dramatic build-up, but is satisfying nonetheless. Cashore doesn't quite give her characters the happily-ever-after ending that readers will be wishing for, but rather a realistic and believable resolution that stays consistent with the characters' personalities. Graceling is a dramatic and thrilling read that is abundant with action, political intrigue, and romance that will leave some readers dreaming long after the last page.
Cover Comments: While this isn't the most striking cover I've seen, I do like the colors used, and I love the font used for the title. The weathered look is very cool, and goes with the fantasy genre. It isn't overdone either, which makes the cover look polished, but not too cookie-cutter. I like it a lot.