Reading Level:: Young Adult/Fantasy
Publisher: October 1st 2008 by Harcourt Children's Books
"The Lady Katsa is it?"
Yes, Lord Prince."
"I've heard you have one eye green as the Middluns grasses, and the other eye blue as the sky."
"Yes, Lord Prince."
"I've heard you can kill a man with the nail of your smallest finger."
She smiled. "Yes, Lord Prince."
"Does it make it easier?"
She squinted at his form hunched in the saddle. "I don't understand you."
"To have beautiful eyes. Does it lighten the burden of your Grace, to know you have beautiful eyes?"
Throughout the seven kingdoms, there is one name that even kings fear to speak, that of the Lady Katsa, who fears her own name as much as they do. She is Graced, gifted with the ability to kill anyone, anywhere, anyhow, regardless of their own abilities or the strength of their defenses. When a child develops a Grace, he or she is sent to her king until the usefulness of their Grace is revealed. Some will have Graces that improve senses, make them swim the fastest, or many things that are gifts of no interest to a king and these children are sent home where acceptance is sought but never gained, to live burdened by their Grace. But a killing Grace, what a useful tool for a greedy, bullying king like Randa to have and Katsa belongs to the king.
With so little control over her own life, and a reputation that keeps her very isolated, Katsa has found ways and outlets to express as much of herself as she dares, as much of herself as she even knows. With the help of a group of nobles, Randa's son the Prince, and the king's own spy-master a council of people has formed across the kingdoms with Katsa's gift directing it to accomplish deeds of a more humane nature than King Randa would ever allow. An errand of recovery in a neighboring kingdom to rescue the grandfather of the Lienid royal family, brings Katsa face to face with a strange man who, from the very moment they meet, makes her desire to belong to something other than a controlling king. When the rescue of the Lienid grandfather reveals the possibility of an evil that far surpasses the petty bullyings of King Randa with a control so absolute it seems almost Graced, Katsa will be forced to face not only the monster within herself, but a monster against whom she is defenseless.
"A monster that refused, sometimes, to behave like a monster. When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?"
Katsa's story isn't told to you, it's whispered. The story is all around you, a gentle humming- a susurrus*, that sweeps you through every twist and turn of the story as you run with Katsa. It's whispered to you because you're far to involved to only be reading it, and you're much too busy running to keep up with your heroes to bother with scanning silly words on a page. You don't simply forget where you are, it's just that you're truly no longer there. You belong to the story now.
Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy fantasy fiction. The straight forward, magical beings, magical world kind that take you out of yours and set you down in the book's. What comes to mind is Edding's Belgariad series, Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, Tanya Huff's Quarters series- series I continually read over and over because I like living in the world they take me to.
And now I have not only a new favorite fantasy book, but a new favorite book as well. Graceling has a solid, permanent place on my top ten list of all time favorite books. I'm so grateful to have read it, for it's existence, for Cashore's gift and for the happiness I know each re-read will provide for years to come. Yes, I realize that I am gushing like an idiot but it's my raw emotional response to this book and I stand by it. I -loved- this book.
*I give full credit to Sir Terry Pratchett and The Wee Free Men for teaching me that word.