By Kristin Cashore
Rating: 4 3/4 stars
In this excellent debut novel, in the 7 kingdoms sometimes a child is born and after a short time, their eyes settle into each of a different color. These children are called "graced" or "gracelings" and are gifted specially--perhaps with the ability to be a great archer or baker or to swim well. Any Gracelings belong immediately to their king and are put to use by him and are quite often avoided by everyone else. Katsa has been Graced with fighting and is virtually unbeatable whether it be with a sword, bow or hand to hand, and her selfish bully king uses her as personal hitwoman to scare his subjects who may not obey as quickly as he would like. Katsa has almost no friends, but she has helped to secretly found the Council, which tries to quietly find out and right wrongdoings in the kingdoms. It is when Katsa helps rescue a kidnapped aging grandfather from the royal family in Lienid that her entire life changes. For then arrives Prince Po from Lienid, searching for news of his grandfather. Po is nearly as gifted a fighter as Katsa and also graced, and when the Council finally tells Po that they have rescued his grandfather, Po and Katsa eventually form a team to search out the culprits who kidnapped him. For besides being beloved of the royal family, he served no purpose--why take him at all? But as their search intensifies and leads to a possibly disturbing discovery in one of the kingdoms, Katsa also discovers things about herself and her companion. Is her Grace more than just fighting and killing? What is her true nature? And what is Po's true Grace? Katsa's world will be broken down and built back up from scratch as she fights and tumbles her way through her adventure to do what is right. A riveting fantasy that readers will find hard to put down. Fans may also be eager to read the companion book, Fire.