This book was so close to 5 stars for me. I find many romance plots feel forced, but this one felt really natural. The idea of this world with "gracelings" interests me...like mid-evil X-men. I really liked Katsa & enjoyed watching her change and grow - though I don't think she grew as much as she could have.I really loved Katsa's romance with Po, and their journey together. But what kept pulling me out of this fairy tale was the preachy anti-marriage conversations - that happened over and over and over again. Listen, I buy that Katsa is a strong, independent woman who doesn't feel like she has to get married. That's fine. But I don't understand why Cashore is making such an in-your-face big deal out of it. For all of the sweetness and subtlety in the rest of the book, her opinion on this topic comes through loud and clear.It's sort of sad because, as others have mentioned, it is a bit of a disconnect from the rest of the emotional growth that Katsa experiences. I don't feel that Katsa and Po HAVE to get married at the end of the book in some sort of fairy tale wedding, they totally don't. But, because the author is so persistent with the anti-marriage talk, Katsa comes off as more of a commitment-phobe rather than just not feeling a need to have a piece of paper to make things official. I am eager to hear more about Katsa, Po, and their world. I plan continue reading the series, but hopefully Cashore will stop letting her politics get in the way of a good story.