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In the Land of the seven kingdoms, sometimes children are born different; sometimes, at any age, for any reason, a child's eyes may change colors. Parents live in fear of that day, when their child is no longer their own. A child with two-colored eyes is a Graceling, and as such is the property of the king. Graces are many and varried, a talent pushed from normal ranges to the extraordinary; holding your breath for hours on end, swallowing stones, being a fabulus cook, reading minds, taming creatures, or in Katsa's case, the Grace of killing.
Lady Katsa of the Middluns, like all Graceligns, was sent to live in the King's palace when she was a child. For the longest time her Grace remained a mystery, until one fateful day she killed one of the courtiers. The King had her trained, honed till she was a weapon: his personal assassin and bully, more effective than an entire army at keeping his subjects in line. But Katsa knows that what the king, her own uncle, commands her to do is wrong. Working with the Prince of the Middluns, she forms the Council, a band of mixed company that soon spreads across all the kingdoms as the people embrace anything that will help against the unbearable and spoiled kings that rule.
When the news reaches the Council that a high ranking Lenid prince, the King's uncle, is being held captive by an enemy king, Katsa takes the mission herself. Things go smoothly until she meets a Graced Lenid fighter in the courtyard. The strange Lenid Graceling, who is in fact Prince Po of Leinid, follows Katsa back to the Middluns, where she and the Council are hard pressed to find who wanted to kidnap the old Prince, and what's more, why. A disturbing pattern soon emerges, and it all leads back to Monsea and its king, a man that everyone swears would not harm anyone; indeed, he is famed for his hospitals, caring for the myriad of animals and people that seem to be wounded in Monsea's capitol. The deeper that Katsa and Po look, the more the two Gracelings begin to fear that there is a more fearsome Grace at work here than any they have met before, even their own.