Graceling by Kristin Cashore
(Age 14+) Recommended. If you had the power to kill with your bare hands, what would you do with it? This is the question that faces Katsa, whose grace gives her the power to do just that. Katsa was born with one blue eye and one green eye, and this distinguishes her as a Graceling, a person who has a special talent. Her talent for killing is unscrupulously used by the king and to help allay her guilt, Katsa starts a secret council that tries to stop injustice. When Po, another royal Graceling, arrives at the court, looking for his grandfather who has been kidnapped, Katsa joins with him to solve the mystery.
With Katsa, Cashore has created a strong, independent character that girls will love. She has to deal with the guilt that besets her when she carries out her cruel king's commands as well as the fact that she cannot trust anyone except her cousin. She explores the meaning of her grace, loyalty, freedom and love at the same time as she demonstrates her warrior skills.
Katsa has to identify what her talent is and how it should work for her because sometimes a grace is not as obvious as it looks. She gradually realises that you don't have to be what other people expect of you but if you have a grace, then there is a great responsibility to use it properly. This theme of making a talent work and being good at something, of working out what is right for the individual pervades the story, both in using a grace and when contemplating marriage with Po.
Cashore has created a unique world, with an unforgettable heroine and lots of action. Fans of Tamora Pierce's Alanna series and Robin McKinley's The blue sword will love it.