Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
Here is the more I promised...
The Graced are very rare, and sometimes very powerful. Easily identifiable by their different-colored eyes, they are born with special talents. In most of the seven kingdoms that make up the world in Graceling, by law, those who are Graced belong to the king. Those with useful talents, like cooking, singing, healing or fighting, stay in the king's service. Those with interesting-but-not-very-useful talents, like the ability to speak backwards, are sent home, where, regardless of how harmless their Grace is, they are avoided by most people. In most places, the Graced are feared.
Katsa, niece of King Randa, may be the most fearsome of all. For she has the killing Grace, and her uncle has no compunction about sending her out as his heavy. While she is feared by most people because of what she's done (and still does) at Randa's command, the few people who are aware of her involvement with the secret Council (Bet you want to know more about that, right? TOO BAD, NOT TELLING!) know that she is something very much more than a mad dog*. More than the general populace and even King Randa, of course, it's Katsa herself who needs to realize it.
In short, I adored it. It's an adventure story with spot-on character development, a super-duper romantic love story (that yes, made me cry), a survival story with lots of political intrigue and yeah, there's more. It's a story about Katsa learning to form connections with people, and that she doesn't have to be ruled by anyone or anything. It's also an unputdownable page-turner that I read in one sitting and that I will read again, like maybe this weekend. Oh, and I also loved how the Graces evolved as the characters became more comfortable with them and with themselves and I especially loved how Kristin Cashore showed that (WARNING: the following idea is seemingly rare in recent YA fantasy and is maybe a little spoiler-y) not all love stories have to end in marriage and babies.
Okay. Now. What did I say in my freakout a couple of days ago? Ah, yes. I cried when it was over. Because I wanted more. Very true. However. I've calmed down a bit since then, and checked out Kristin Cashore's blog and website, and it looks to me like this is the first book in a trilogy**. So there will be more. I just have to wait a while. Which will be difficult, but I will persevere. Sadly, I am not Graced with patience.
Super-duper-ultra-mega-uber recommended to fans of Tamora Pierce, Shannon Hale***, Robin McKinley and anyone else who does the girl power fantasy thing.
Oh, right. ItcomesoutinOctoberpleasedon'thatemeokaybye.
*"Underneath that angry young woman shell is a slightly less angry young woman..." Name that quote!
**At least. At this very moment, even three books feels like too few to me. I WANT MORE.
***Oh, but do know that there's some tasteful non-explicit sex in here.