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I read this years ago, when it first came out, and loved it. I’ve re-read it a couple of times since then, and love it just as much, every time.
Cashore beautifully creates a fantasy world, where some people are born with Graces - unique skills that make them the best at what they do. These people have different coloured eyes and are usually avoided by most in society. The ones that are of use to the King serve him. Katsa, our main character, has a killing Grace, and is used as a tool by her uncle, the King of the Middluns, to bully the people of his kingdom, and keep them in line. But Katsa doesn’t just want to be a monster, and sets up the council, which helps people across the Seven Kingdoms, saving them from the selfish choices of those in power.
It is on one of these missions that Katsa meets Po, and the real story starts. I loved their relationship - the teasing and the fighting and how quickly and strongly their friendship grows. And I love the way it develops into something more. It’s quite understated, but powerful, too.
Katsa is a brilliant heroine of the novel. She is a terrific fighter, but she’s caring, too. She wrestles with herself, and her grace, and whether she can truly be a servant of the king, and carry out the horrible, unjust things that he wants her to do. I like, also, that she is a female character that doesn’t want children. I love that when a male character tells her she’s going to grow out of that, he is shown as being the stupid one. Too often in society is it assumed that all women want children, and as someone who doesn’t want them, it’s nice to see that represented in this character.
The plot and the adventure in this novel are well-crafted and developed. It’s a fun, exciting read but there are sad elements, too. I thought Po’s struggle at the end was heartbreaking, and I loved the way it developed his relationship with Katsa. This is an INDIGO novel, and I recommend it to all lovers of fantasy and assassins.