Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In all the Seven Kingdoms no is feared or revered as much as Gracelings -- individuals who are born with an innate talent to do something extremely well, be it to sing perfectly, outrun a horse, or even to read minds. Gracelings are immediately discerned by their different colored eyes, often to their disadvantage since most people distrust and even dislike them. Katsa is born with one green and one blue eye but has no idea what her grace is until after her seventh birthday, when she accidentally killed a man. With the unlikely grace of killing Katsa is turned into her uncle's (King Randa) personal thug and enforcer - sending Katsa off on missions to 'punish' his vassals through pain, torture or even death. For herself, Katsa views her grace as a burden -- more often than not seeing herself as a monster. That is until she begins planning and executing her own secret missions with the help of her friends to combat the oppressive reigns of various rulers. One such mission to rescue the kidnapped grandfather of another ruler doesn’t go exactly as planned when Katsa encounters another Graceling almost as talented in fighting as she is. A Graceling who will challenge every belief Katsa holds about the world around her and herself.

Boy, oh boy, Katsa kicks butt. Really. She's not happy unless she's taking out an entire battalion of bad guys. She doesn't feel feminine (she even cuts off all her hair - I can totally sympathize!) but she still possesses this incredibly soft inner self which is slowly uncovered as she opens herself up to others. In her struggle to define, and perhaps more importantly, learn to control her Grace, Katsa strives to find the courage to take control of her own life. This fast-paced book practically flew by but still took the time to address even minor characters which left me feeling satisfied and thoroughly engaged throughout. Graceling is an adventure story, a fantasy, a mystery, a political suspense, a romance -- it has it all and doesn't stop for a second. I found myself thinking about Katsa long afterwards because by golly, how fun would it be to be able to KNOW you could take down anybody, I mean anybody, before they even noticed you had two different colored eyes?

reading order:
~ Graceling
~ Fire

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