So, I recently re-read this one for my book club. Though, because I read so many books each year, and I read this one a few years ago (maybe 400 books ago), it felt kind of like I was reading it again for the first time. I kind of wish I read it again before reading Bitterblue (review), which I read/reviewed this year, but I apparently cannot plan everything out as perfectly as I should.
My good friend, Maheen, who’s in my book club, actually recommended it to me right when it came out. Not only did she recommend it to me, but she kind of made me purchase it (when she was working at Borders). From years of experience, I know that when Maheen tells me I need to purchase a book that I absolutely must do so (and vice versa, she takes my recommendations seriously too)!
I remember falling in love with this book and its amazing world building, and it’s very unique main characters. I especially remember falling in love with Po, the love interest. I had a slightly different experience reading it this time, but it was still a very good experience.
Katsa lives in a world where people who have two different eye colors, is not that uncommon. And more importantly, people with two different eye colors are known as the graced. Someone who is graced, is known for having a remarkable ability that normal (same eye-colored) people don’t have. People can be graced with clairvoyance or mindreading or even in simpler things like cooking or dancing. It is learned early on for Katsa, as a child, that she is graced in killing. She accidentally kills a relative who seemed ready to hurt her.
And in Katsa’s world, the graced are at the mercy of the kings. There are several different realms/kingdoms with various different kings. All graced are sent to the king of the land, and the king can either decide to keep the child and train them in their gifts at the castle, or to let them go. The less useful graces are usually let go, but once a graced child returns to their home, no one wants anything to do with them. People avoid the graced like they would avoid people with disease. So you can imagine, how people would avoid Katsa.
Yet, Katsa makes a few friends within the castle (including the prince) who stand behind her like the best of friends should. Katsa does not like having a useful grace for her king. He sends her on missions around his kingdom, mostly to murder his enemies, collect taxes, torture townspeople, and any other number of odd yet terrible things. And while she trains at the castle, she never seems within complete control of her abilities because she is always afraid of loosing her temper and accidentally killing the wrong person.
She hates killing and hurting people. And to sort of counteract her day job, she does side missions with her own appointed secret council that actually works to help save the people of her kingdom. It is on once such mission (where she’s to rescue a certain royal’s grandfather) that she first meets Po, a young man graced with what appears to be fighting.
Po proves to be Katsa’s match when it comes to physical combat, and it’s not too long before he joins her both in training and in her council. He requests their help in determining the reasons behind his grandfather’s kidnapping.
With Po’s help, Katsa manages to defy her king, fight for herself, save lots of people from a terrible fate, and learn as much as possible how and what her grace actually is. There’s rebellion, battles, recue missions, kidnappings, chase scenes, romance, evil dictators, magical powers, and some downright amazing characters. Seriously, Katsa is awesome (so fierce and brave –a true epic hero!) There’s a little bit of romance and a ton of action (just how I like it). Also, there’s some hinting of a homosexual relationship within the royalty, and I don’t remember that the first time, and I loved that it is here.
Katsa’s world pulls you in and doesn’t want to let you go until you’ve sat and read this cover to cover. Though, I didn’t quite enjoy this as much as I did the first time. One of the things talked about in my book club was the believability of Po. The first time I read this, I loved Po. But as discussed at the meeting, Po is a little too perfect. He is everything Katsa needs and more, and he puts up with all of her scary moments like a pro. He didn’t really have any noticeable flaws, like Katsa had with her anger and her control, and the further I got in this book, the more I noticed how un-flawed he was. Because of this, I didn’t quite love his as much I remembered.
Other than that though I don’t think there was anything wrong with this book. I’d love to learn about more of the graces and more of the normal people who are graced, but I get that this wasn’t too relevant; it was just so interesting that I could have read so much more about it! I’m glad my book club picked this one and that I had another chance to read it. Of course now I want to re-read all of them, and I absolutely don’t have the time for that. I give this a 9/10. It really is some great, butt-kicking, YA fantasy!