18-year-old Katsa is the niece of King Randa, living in one of the seven kingdoms in this dystopian/fantasy world. Some people are born with a ‘Grace’, meaning they have a certain skill, but are often feared or exploited for their talents. Born with a killing Grace, Katsa accidentally killed a man at a very young age. She began to train her lethal ability, at first using sacks filled with grain, perfecting her knife, archery, combat, and sword skills. Her ability to fight and kill was well known, and one day the King; started exploiting her skills to kill or maim anyone who displeased him in the other kingdoms.
For years Katsa is repulsed by the orders she obeys, and later decides to create a Council to secretly defy the King, where she helps people in the kingdoms who have been wronged. On one of her missions, she meets Po, who has a Grace of fighting, and they seem matched in their abilities. They start to train together and their next mission is to find out who kidnapped his grandfather.
Katsa was an interesting person at times and also a little frustrating, because she has only ever had one friend before and doesn’t know how to proceed in any relationship. As Po and Katsa become friends, their relationship was quite relaxed, and it was clear to me, they were going to be more than friends. Katsa grows, as she learns how to mostly trust another person, other than herself. Most of the people in the Kingdom are disgusted by her, and in doing so, making Katsa believe she is a savage monster herself. We see her vulnerable in a relationship and it’s a new experience as she always keeps people at arms length.
Katsa refuses to marry because of her inability to trust, and her desire to be independent her whole life. She can’t bear to wear a dress or have her hair done up, heading straight to the archery building for her comfort zone when she gets upset. It seems like she’s compensating for physical strength, because she feels vulnerable. I understood why Katsa feels she can only trust herself and a handful of other people, and I thought Po and her fit very well as a couple, him being the Yin to her Yang. However, I have two opinions on their relationship. I really liked their relationship when they were friends. I truly believed the build up towards their relationship, but from then on, I was slightly disappointed. I really wanted their love as an opportunity for them to act more as a couple. Having said that, I understand that it’s not Katsa’s type of personality.
The plot had such potential, and there was lots of build up, but the fight scenes were quick and didn’t give me enough time to enjoy them. Katsa was praised a killing phenomenon, yet there were not enough fights to satisfy me. Throughout the book, I didn’t get enough intrigue and it didn’t leave me guessing. I liked the premise of the story and what Kristin Cashore has built, but the story never hit me hard enough.
The twists and turns in this plot were very interesting, but not un-put-down-able. I really liked the different characters and their development, enjoying the contrast between Katsa’s badass personality and her vulnerable side. The world Kristin has build is interesting, and I’m excited to see where she takes me in the next book.
I give this a 3.5 Stars