On Amazon: Graceling
Author Blog: This is My Secret
Length: 340 pages - pretty hefty
Katsa killed her first man when she was eight years old, and hasn't stopped since. You see, Katsa is one of the Graced, a rare class of people with extraordinary gifts - but Katsa's Grace is to kill, and her tyrannical uncle the king doesn't hesitate to use her gift for his own purposes.
Despite this, Katsa is one of the strongest, most sympathetic characters I've ever read. Aged eighteen in the novel, she's struggling with her own identity and morals, rebelling against the role outlined for her, and fed up with men controlling her life. Sickened by the murderous work she's forced into, she starts a secret council to act against the injustices perpetrated or ignored by the corrupt seven kings. Despite this, it's not until she meets Po, a Graced prine with a secret, that she actually gets up the nerve to start changing her own life.
There are some seriously amazing scenes in the book that I keep going back to - the proposal scene, for one, where Katsa is kind of baffled and horrified by the idea of marriage, or the scene where she finally confronts her uncle, which I re-read whenever I need a confidence boost, because seriously. Also the whole sequence on Grella's Pass. Katsa grows throughout the book, in a very real way. Her developing relationship with Po is handled beautifully and is an important part of that growth, however, when she's forced to leave him behind, she discovers even more about herself.
The book also passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours; the friendship which develops between Katsa and the child princess Bitterblue is charming. At times Bitterblue seems a little too old and mature to be ten, but she's a victim of a terrifying situation and has had to grow up quickly, and her soberness is a nice foil for Katsa's at-time crazy recklessness.
All in all, this is a great book. The characters are strong and believable and grow and change throughout the book, the world-building is solid, the descriptions and language are lush, and the story is totally captivating. Highly recommended.
- Graceling, Kristin Cashore