In a world where people born with an extreme skill – called a Grace – are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.
When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
She never expects to become Po’s friend.
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
Lady Katsa…siiigh. That was a dreamy sigh, by the way. I love Lady Katsa. She’s emotionally isolated, she’s feared by her uncle’s court, no one wants to be her servant, and she is badass, able to kill a man in one blow. She has friends, but very few. She is used by her uncle as a punishment of sorts, sent out to wound or kill as needed. She is also a member of the Council, Katsa’s own personal rebellion. The Council basically uses Katsa as vigilante justice, without the King’s knowledge, and Katsa does so willingly. On her most recent mission to rescue an old man from kidnapping, she meets Prince Greening (or Po) and he soon turns up at her uncle’s castle.
Katsa is uncomfortable with Po at first, but when she learn the rescued man is Po’s grandfather, she softens a bit. Because Po is Graced with hand-to-hand fighting, he and Katsa begin training together. They become friends, though Katsa’s friend Giddon doesn’t like Po. They grow close, and Katsa finds herself attracted to him. There are a few misunderstandings (and Po is not as he seems), but they don’t last long. Katsa has some trust issues, but most problems are ironed out quickly. When her uncle gives her an order she can’t complete, she leaves the court with Po.
Before I go any farther, I want to point out that this book is incredibly long, but so so worth it. It starts out moving slowly, but gets good really fast.
Katsa gets over her distrust of Po to the point that we get a nice fade to black around the halfway mark. After this, Po and Katsa are basically an established couple. They’re lovely and I love them and there is like ZERO fan fic for them. Not cool, people. So, Po and Katsa plan and continue to fight, and then they finally, finally, finally reach Monsea.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS (but nothing too huge, promise)
They suspect King Leck of kidnapping Po’s grandfather, but they don’t know why. You pretty much know they whole time that it has to be Leck, and he turns out to be a medieval villain with an M.O. straight out of L&O: SVU. Creepy and gross. Kasta and Po arrive just in time for Po to see Leck kill Ashen, Po’s aunt and Monsea’s Queen. Po knows that Leck has seen the truth of Po’s Grace, and he also knows that Katsa is affected by Leck’s odd, scary Grace. They find Princess Bitterblue in the woods and spirit her away.
Po’s assassination attempt is a failure, and he’s injured to the point that Katsa and Bitterblue have to leave him in an abandoned cottage in the woods. In the end, everything resolves itself, but it’s very bittersweet. I’m reading the second book now, but I hear the third book, Bitterblue, has more Katsa and Po and I can’t wait!