In the seven kingdoms, a rare few people are born with a 'Grace'. A random special ability, that can be skill in combat, a magical touch with cooking, mind-reading, etc. It's always easy to tell who is Graced, as from a young age when the grace sets in, that person always have two different coloured eyes.
Katsa is a young woman who is graced with killing. She's feared by many, and her ability is exploited by her uncle, the King of Middlun, who uses her to do all his dirty work. Katsa has a few close friends, the spy master Oll, a young lordling Giddon, and her cousin prince Raffin. Together they created the council of kingdoms; a secret vigilante group that go righting wrongs in the seven kingdoms.
We meet Katsa on her latest mission for the council, rescuing the kidnapped princ Tealiff, father to the current king of Lienid. During her rescue of Tealiff, Katsa crosses paths with Prince Po, his grandson, who is also Graced with fighting skill. At first they don't get along, but soon they have to work together to discover the real reason behind the kidnapping.
I was pleasantly suprised by this book, I wasn't expected to like it as much as I did. I'm not always keen on Young Adult novels, although I'm giving them more of a go these days. But this has to be one of the more passable YA I've read. At first the names are a great offput (I mean really? Prince Po?! - Thats the german word for 'bum' by the way - What was the author thinking?!), and the strong invincible super-powered, yet exploited and opressed young lady who yearns to be independent and never marry.. well that threatened to be a bit cliche, but the character was actually quite likeable in the end. I still think she had too much power, but at least she had weaknesses that the author wasn't afraid to show, and she wasn't entirely self-centred and shallow like some YA heroines.
She did have a little too much opression forced on her for realism tho. The way I see it, the Uncle should have been Either exploiting her for her abilities, OR trying to marry her off, but not both. Surely he loses control over her if she's married? Pick one method of opression for the heroin, but not both please. Other than that and the names, I have few real complaints.
At least one of the bad-guys was an interesting character, well, we didn't see a lot of his personality and motivations, he was clearly a bad guy, but his abilities were certainly interesting. It could have been more interesting to see him have more page time though, I would have liked to have known what his motivations were and whether he really thought he was doing wrong or not, but then, it might have got moe creepy and non YA suitable if the creepy bad guy were actually allowed to do and say more, hah.
I wished also that some of the other character had been padded out a bit more, Raffin and Giddon particularly, I didn't feel that they had enough personality separate from their interactions with Katsa. But I can't complain too much, then it wouldn't have been such a quick and easy read.
I wouldn't highly recommend it, but if you particularly like YA fantasy, then it's actually not bad.