Katsa has a special skill; a Grace. Like the others Graced, she is both feared and exploited. Katsa's is especially intimidating as she has the Grace of Killing.
Ruled by her uncle, King Randa of the Middluns, Katsa is sent out to do his bidding - threatening, intimidating and killing anyone who he dislikes or does him wrong. She is determined to use her skills for some use though and along with her cousin, Raffin, Katsa has organised a Council of people who work secretly to help those in need. One of these tasks is to rescue the King of Lienad's father who has been kidnapped. She also needs to work out who kidnapped him and why. Katsa would also like to find out the identity of the Graced fighter she meets.
Graceling is an exceptionally written, exciting fantasy adventure story. There are great characters and beautifully described places. It's a world of Kings, princesses and heroes where the Graced can be identified by their different colour eyes - something that doesn't help Katsa in keeping a low profile. It's a world of seven kingdoms, two of which are physically from the others; one by sea and one by unforgiving mountains. Katsa must travel to both of these to find out the truth and aid the survival of a young princess.
The protagonist of the story is Katsa. She's gutsy and determined, a little bit anti-social yet at the same time more vulnerable than even she realises. She's caught between the roles of being a lady at court and being a fighter. She wants to be neither. Part of the story is Katsa struggling to find her true self. The other character I really liked in this book was Princess Bitterblue. It's not very often a ten-year-old princess is strong and sharp but she still has her weaknesses. It's more that she's been brought up to be a ruler but the author doesn't forget she's still a little girl.
A definite recommended read, especially for fans of fantasy adventure. I'm not sure if this book falls into the Young Adult or Adult genre though. Parts of it, namely that the characters seemed fairly young made me think it would be YA but other parts seemed more geared towards adult readers. As far as I recall there's nothing actually graphic but there's some mentions of things that might not be for younger readers (trying not to give away too much here lol). So yes, older teens and above.