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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
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What's the story?
In the world of the Seven Kingdoms, a few people are born with Graces -- talents beyond the ordinary. At age 8, Katsa discovers what hers is: killing. Trained by her uncle, the king, to be his enforcer, Katsa also secretly forms The Council, a group dedicated to helping the helpless. But when she rescues an old man who has been kidnapped by a neighboring king, Katsa meets a man who is nearly her match in fighting, and discovers a mystery that threatens all of the kingdoms.
Is it any good?
This immensely satisfying fantasy, with echoes of Orson Scott Card's Treason, comes from a first-time author, but you would never know it without reading the flap copy. Kristin Cashore writes like a seasoned veteran and avoids rookie mistakes and pitfalls: her fluid and effortless prose sweeps the reader along from the exceptional opening-hook chapter, with complex, fully-realized characters, an original and well-paced plot, and a thoroughly thought-out world in which it is set. She even manages to make the reader long for the sequel, not by resorting to the usual, tired device of a book-ending cliffhanger, but simply by making you want to spend more time with these compelling characters in this intriguing world.
Though the synopsis might make this sound like a Grrl-Power screed, and there are certainly elements of empowerment here, Katsa's Grace is not one of them -- she despises and fights to control it. Boys, at least those open-minded enough to consider a book with a female hero, will enjoy it just as much, if not more than girls. It's packed with gritty action and adventure, though it's unfortunate that the unnecessary sexual content will limit the appeal to pre-teens. Nonetheless, this brilliant debut vaults Cashore to the top of the list of authors to watch.
From the Book:
Most of the guards gave her no trouble. If she could sneak up on them, or if they were crowded in small groups, they never knew what hit them. The castle guard was a bit more complicated, because five guards defended his office. She swirled through the lot of them, kicking and kneeing and hitting, and the castle guard jumped up from his guardhouse desk, burst through the door, and ran into the fray.
"I know a Graceling when I see one." He jabbed with his sword, and she rolled out of the way. "Let me see the colors of your eyes, boy. I'll cut them out. Don't think I won't."