Talk about girl power. Katsa has it in spades. Thanks to her "Grace".
In Katsa's fictional medieval world (that reminded me of Eragon in a way) there are some who are "Graced". What that Grace is depends on the person, but when you come into your Grace, your eyes change -- to two different colors -- so all will know you are a Graceling.
Katsa's grace showed itself when she was 8. And since her Grace is an amazing ability to fight (and even kill), it puts her in a precarious position. She is the niece of the King, and as his strong-arm, the now-grown Katsa is forced to threaten, torture and sometimes execute in the King's name.
And then, you guessed it, she meets a guy.
But not just any guy. Po is a prince. A Graced price. She knows this because of his eyes (one silver, one gold). Apparently, he likes her one blue eye and one green eye just as much, because he's one of the few people who will look her in the eye -- and who can give her a challenge in a fight.
He becomes her sparring partner of sorts, and although the characters are well-drawn and likable, and the action is tight, I wasn't finding anything special about this book.
And then I hit the halfway point.
Po and Katsa discover that a neighboring king is Graced as well, but with a Grace to manipulate the way people think. He has used his Grace to get away with unspeakable acts, but Po, because of his own secret Grace, is immune to the mind-control. Po's aunt is the King's wife and in order to save his cousin, Princess Bitterblue, Po and Katsa must not only rescue her, but find a way to kill the King or no one will be safe.
And of course along the way, Po and Katsa fall madly in love, with a passion that rivals Bella and Edward's.
The thing I liked most about this book was Katsa. She's uber tough, like seriously you would not want to mess with her. She has every man in the book terrified of her, yet she has a femininity and, dare I say, grace that transcends the violent nature. Her struggle to control her power, to come to terms with what it means for her future, and her feelings for Po, mirrors the same kinds of things the young women of today struggle against -- about how they look, how they behave toward boys, and fighting against stereotypes.
The entire last half of the book I just raced through, I couldn't put it down. 4 bookmarks and I look forward to more from this author.