by Kristen Cashore – Orion Publishing, 2009
ages 14 and up / y.a.
Everyone has fears—fear of failure, spiders, heights and so on. Personally I’m terrified of crocodiles.
But imagine that the thing you are most afraid of is yourself and what you are capable of doing! A fear that you can not escape!
That's how it is for Katsa, orphaned niece of the brutal king of the Middluns.
She is Graced, meaning someone born with an extraordinary ability, identified by eyes of two different colours.
But, unlike the Graced healer who can bring people back from the brink of death, or the swimmer who can hold breath indefinitely, Katsa is Graced with a harsh gift:
Ladies in the court had screamed; one had fainted. When they’d lifted him from the pool of blood on the floor and he’d turned out to be dead, the court had grown silent, backed away. Frightened eyes – not just those of the ladies now, but those of the soldiers, the sworded underlords – all directed at her. It was fine to eat the meals of the king’s chef, who was Graced with cooking, or send their horses to the king’s Graced horse doctor. But a girl Graced with killing? This one was not safe.
And so Katsa grows up believing she is a monster, nothing more than a brutal killer too dangerous to be autonomous. But a chance encounter with Prince Po, who is Graced with fighting, might just change that.
Katsa's desire to be more than her uncle's tame killer causes her to join Prince Po on a journey to discover who is responsible for the abduction of his (Po’s) grandfather. Along the way she discovers many things; a beloved king with a dark secret, love and trust in an unexpected place and the thought that maybe, just maybe, her Grace is not what it appears to be.
Katsa takes a journey of self-discovery and, as we read, we see that we have choice over our actions and what we become + we must never judge ourselves by others' expectations.
This is a book full of relatable characters and epic adventures - a perfect choice if you're up for lots of excitement, daring, action and justice!
There are three books in the series; Graceling is followed by Fire (a prequel) and Bitterblue. They'd be nice bundled together for holiday reading or as a Y.A. gift.