This book has everything you want. Fantasy, adventure, romance, social commentary, political intrigue, mystery. Katsa is a strong female character who stays true to her ideals. She is determined not to marry or have children. At one point I was disappointed because I thought that certain events were going to change her mind, but she didn't. She didn't change her true essence to please a man or anyone else. Cashore did a great job of creating a really strong heroine. She starts out a little lost and not understanding her grace, but by the end of the book she learns what her grace really is and what she can do with it. She finds her place in the world and accepts it.
This was a great book and I look forward to reading the companion, Fire, when it comes out in the fall.