Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm #1)
Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, who is smart and beautiful and lives in the Seven Kingdoms where selected people are born with a Grace, a special talent that can be anything at all. Katsa's Grace is killing. As the king's niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his brutal enforcer. Until the day she meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, and Katsa's life begins 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.
AUTHOR: Kristin Cashore
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin
LENGTH: 471 pages
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Romance
Queer Rep Summary: Ace/Aro Main Character(s).
This is a YA novel with an aspec protagonist (my best guess is she'd say demi if that language were available) who ends up in a relationship with someone who meets her on her terms rather than demanding she meet his. It's nice to see an aspec character whose aro/ace nature isn't overwritten or ignored in order to give her a relationship, how she is is part of how they are together.
It's about loneliness, abuse, and healing, including abuse to children and animals, so please be aware that those are major themes in the book.
The world building is solid, with enough detail to make later revelations feel important. The explanations feel natural, occurring as something happens or Katsa thinks of some detail. This makes it feel like the world is slowly being revealed even though early on it's not new to the protagonist. I like Po, he had a difficult set of things to balance and overall I like how he is with Katsa. His situation towards the end skirts some potentially problematic ableist tropes but manages to not make it seem like his late-acquired disability is what gives him greater control of his powers. YMMV on whether this works, I think it does because of the precise order of events.
Overall I like this a lot and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
CW for sexism, misogyny, sexual content (brief), sexual assault (not depicted), kidnapping, child abuse, animal cruelty, medical content, blood, vomit, violence, torture, animal death, parental death, child death, murder (graphic), death (graphic).