"In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as 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 carry out his dirty work, punnishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. Breaking arms and cutting off fingers are her stock-in-trade. Finding life under his rule increasingly unbearable Katsa forms an underground Council, whose purpose is to combat the destructive behaviour of the seven kings - after all, the Middluns is only one of the Seven Kingdoms, each of them ruled by their own king and his personal agenda for power. When the Council hears that the King of Liend's father has been kidnapped Katsa investigates . . . and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap him, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced fighter who challenged her fighting skills, for the first time, as she and the Council rushed the old man to saftey? Something dark and deadly is rising in the north and creeping across the continent, and behind it all lurks the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king . . ."
Graceling is Kristin Cashore's debut novel and I'm not that sure what to make of it. It's written with beautiful, descriptive and expressive prose, but I found it a little hard to get in to and very easy to put down. Katsa is an interesting character. Shunned for her 'Grace' and unable to hide with her one green eye one blue, she knows her physical strength but is unaware of the real power she holds. She has a pretty strong sense of justice and right and wrong though, which helped her character to grow on me.
The story starts pretty well but then drags a fair bit, before picking up again for the last 1/3 or so. It was a little predictable at times, but there were a couple twists I didn't see coming. A good portion of the book had Katsa travelling with Po (a Graceling prince from another kingdom) and there were times when I was thinking 'just hurry up and get there already'. And there were incidents that happened very suddenly, with little explanation, after a fair bit of build up. And while the end tied up the loose ends pretty well, I found it a bit unsatisfying.
But I liked the characters and the way the different kingdoms came across with their differences. I also liked the idea of Grace's and how anyone with one has one eye one color, and the other another. This book wasn't enough to put me off reading other titles by this author, but I'm also in no hurry to read her other book.