Everybody and their mother has already reviewed Graceling so I won't add to much, other to agree with the masses that this was, indeed, a spectacular new fantasy. The author created a new world that was well thought out, rich with history, and because of that the reader becomes completely immersed in that world as they read.
It reminded me a lot of Tamora Pierce, which I think is a high compliment. It featured an independent woman as the main character, a romance that was based on mutual respect, constant plot development, and action that almost never stops. All the while featuring superb characterization.
I'm glad I got to read this before the year ended, although perhaps a little closer to the sequel would have been good!