In the opening scene of this story, Katsa, hooded and dressed like a boy, moves through underground caverns doping her opponents and knocking a killer flat with a single blow.
In this world, there are certain people called Gracelings who are born with a special skill. Katsa's grace is that she is a stone-cold killer.
Easily identified by having two different colored eyes, Gracelings, though blessed with such amazing powers as laser vision or hearing people's thoughts, are not worshipped, they're shunned, kind of like medieval X-Men.
The court found out Katsa's grace when her uncle touched her leg inappropriately. With a flick of her hand, she smashed his skull like an overripe tomato.
Katsa meets her match when she encounters Po, another killer Graceling, and the only person who can stand up to her in a fight -- thus kicking off a rich and romantic fantasy novel with the coolest girl heroine in YA.
Bibliotherapeutic value: Although she can kill, Katsa can do much more. It is about getting out from under someone else's controlling grip; about a disenfranchised girl finding her true power.
Cashore, Kristin. Graceling. New York: Harcourt Children's Books, 2008.
ISBN: 015206396X. $17.