Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I loved the story up until the two protagonists discuss the possibility of marriage and decide not to make the commitment, settling on becoming lovers with no long term commitment.
Early in the story the female protagonist gains the strength to be true to herself and to stand up for herself. I liked the model this gives young women. However, when the protagonist discovers intense fears about marriage and the complete commitment it requires and chooses to settle for a less demanding intimate relationship I was seriously disappointed. The feelings the protagonist feels are real and many young women will probably feel them, but the reward for facing those fears evaporates in this story, as does the potential and substance for the symbol and meaning of a ring that influences the plot toward the end of the book.
Book description from Goodreads
"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 fall in love [...] 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."
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