Katsa is the King’s niece.  You’d think she would be expected to learn how to dance, talk politely with potential suitors, and wear pretty dresses.  You’d be wrong.  Katsa is a Graceling—a person born with a specific skill.  She doesn’t have one of those useless gifts like walking on water; she is skilled in Killing.  As such, her uncle uses her like a glorified thug.  Any time one of her uncle’s subordinates steps out of line, he sends her in to straighten things up.

Katsa hates her work and her Grace.  That is, until she meets Prince Po.  Like her, he is a Fighter Graceling and is the only person to almost best her in a fight.  They forge a tentative friendship, and she finds out that he isn’t just traveling through the kingdoms for fun.  He is looking for his grandfather who was kidnapped.  

As she helps him, they discover that trouble may be brewing in the quietest kingdom of all: Monsea.  But how can they suspect the King of Monsea of this crime when he is admired for his kindness by all of his citizens?

Slowly Katsa and Po unravel this mystery.  While doing so, Katsa begins to see the kingdoms and her own Grace in a new light. 

Graceling is Kristin Cashore’s debut novel.  Cashore wrote a companion novel titled Fire.  Her third novel Bitterblue, a sequel to Graceling, released last month.