Amongst Katsa’s people are those who are Graced. Marked by eyes of two different colors, the Graced possess a singular talent. Some people are Graced with cooking, or singing, or archery. All are met with fear and suspicion by the general populace. Katsa has the misfortune to be singled out for even greater revulsion: she has a killing Grace, one that ensures she will be manipulated and controlled by the King for his own purposes.
Then, during a daring rescue mission, Katsa meets a young man from another kingdom. He has his own dark secrets, truths that he desperately hopes no one will ever discover. Although reluctant to work together, they realize they must join forces to free a young girl from her tyrannical father, a man who might have his own insidious Grace.
The plotting and pacing of this book were excellent. The tension between the two main characters, and between Katsa and herself, was very well done as well. The romance was enjoyable and satisfying, though perhaps it moved forward a bit faster than entirely necessary given the nature of Katsa’s personality. Then again, Katsa is a mass of contradictions, fulfilling her uncle-King’s hideous missions during the day, while undermining cruelty at night. She’s tough, nearly indestructible, but also wracked by her own doubts.
Although the story ends a little too neatly, there are likely to be few complaints about that. The rest of the book rockets through ups and downs, as Katsa runs – sometimes literally – from one threat to the next. With lots of action and an equal amount of interpersonal relationship discussion, this will appeal to a fairly wide audience.
Cover notes: It’s subtle, but if you look closely at the knife, it’s reflecting Katsa’s eye. They did a fairly good job with this one. The general design fairly screams “fantasy” and the knife is a good reflection of Katsa’s talent.