This is one of the best books I've read in the last few months, and fans of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins will definifely want to check it out because I found quite a few parallels between Katniss and the heroine of Graceling, Katsa (and not just the similarity of their names). Both are strong, wounded women who have experienced a hard life filled with loss and find themselves unwillingly being manipulated by people in positions of power over them, but they both come out winners in the end - Girl Power!
Graceling is an action, adventure, fantasy with just the right amount of suspense, tension, shock, mystery, battle, horribly unfathomable bad guys, romance (but not in the traditional sense that you would expect), and humor (I laughed out loud at some parts). I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning for quite a few days to finish it because I literally couldn't stop reading it. The world that the author creates is believable and the characters are all wonderfully developed and unique.
From the publisher:
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug. She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace - or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
I loved this book so much that I immediately checked out Cashore's second book, Fire, which is actually a companion novel (not a prequel or a sequel) to Graceling. Stay tuned for a review of that one!