Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 576 pages
Release date: May 1, 2012
Series: Graceling Realm #3
Source: ARC provided by Penguin Canada
Reviewed by: Tynga
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.
Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.
Eight years after the terrible events taking place at the end of Graceling, little Bitterblue is now eighteen of age and Queen of Monsea. Ruling after her psychotic father is a very hard task for someone such a young age and since age ten, when she acceded to the throne, Bitterblue has been surrounded but her father’s old advisers. Bitterblue’s father had a terrible Grace, he could fog one’s mind making them do – and think- whatever he wanted. The consequences of his actions left tangible injuries to Monsea’s people and Bitterblue is doing her best to help her kingdom recover. Nothing prepared our young heroine to face what she uncovers on a nightly trip in town though. Her kingdom isn’t has healthy has she thought it was, and it appears people have been keeping things from her, lying to her.
I’ve been waiting for Bitterblue’s release for almost three years now, and let me tell you, I was one excited reader when this ARC showed up at my door! Graceling & Fire are amongst my favorite books ever, and Bitterblue lived up to my expectations, even though it’s very different from its companions. Don’t worry the world is the same and the characters we love are present, the major difference is the spirit and atmosphere of this book. See both Katsa and Fire were strong heroine with incredible physical abilities, and while Bitterblue has her own strengths, they are not of the athletic kind and due to her past, she is very vulnerable emotionally.
Bitterblue was a very endearing character. At the beginning of the book she genuinely thinks her Kingdom is on the way to healing from her father’s plague and holds to heart the well being of her subjects. The latter never changes, but when she decided to sneak into town, one night, to learn more about the city, she was shocked to discover things aren’t as reported by her advisers and she launches on a mission to uncover the truth, for the sake of her folks. Her intentions were always pure, but her methods questionable. She is very innocent in her desire for a better world, but will find herself sneaking around, lying and deceiving her friends in the process. Witnessing her heart-breaking failures really engrossed me into the story, hoping I could make sense of what’s really going on and help her through it. Thankfully the lovely Bitterblue was surrounded by friends such as Po, Katsa, Giddon, Raffin and many new ones, but even though they are working really hard, sickening themselves in the process, the truth is buried much deeper than Bitterblue thought.
I was extremely happy to see all those familiar faces when I read the book. I loved Graceling’s characters and having them along for the ride was amazing, even if they only held a secondary role. Giddon won my heart over the course of this adventure, and I could totally imagine him with Bitterblue in the future, even considering their age difference. I don’t want to ruin anything, but you might be interested in knowing that you’ll get to see glimpses of Dell & Pikkia (both Kingdoms from Fire)! I thought it was really exciting, and I’m hoping maybe the next book (if there is one?) will take us back there! Sapphire, a young thief Bitterblue befriends, proved to be a rather interesting character. He was enticing and frustrating all at once. Hot and Cold with Bitterblue and always surprising, I found myself wanting to shake some sense into him in more than one occasion. A bit of a love story develops between the two of them, but don’t hold your breath for romance, as it’s barely there.
Because of Bitterblue’s nature, this novel wasn’t as action filled as the previous ones, but just as interesting. All the action is behind the curtains with power plays of treason and mystery. Everybody lies, and the trick is to discover what’s the extend of their lies, whom can you really trust and who might stab you in the back around the next corner. The extend of the lies surrounding our young hero is mind-boggling and even thought I had suspicions toward some characters, I never guessed the extend of the betrayal until Bitterblue finally, pain-stalkingly, did. Kristin Cashore really brought the readers into a fog-filled world, representative of the damage Leck, the late King, did. Trying to figure out the truth was highly addicting and I truly enjoyed trying to guess which characters were trustworthy and which ones weren’t.
I found the conclusion most satisfy with all the culprits being uncovered, hope for a better future for Bitterblue, her friends and her Kingdom, and cleverly planted hints of what might be coming next. I don’t know if Kristin is currently working on another sequel, but I really hope so. This chapter was pleasingly closed, but there are a lot of openings for new stories to come. I have a few options in mind, but won’t reveal them as it would be slightly spoiler-ish :)
Bitterblue was marvelous, thrilling and highly mysterious. Each page was a delight and even though the book is fairly long with its 500+ pages, I navigated the story at high speed, curious of what would happen next, and couldn’t help but want more by the time I was done. Kristin Cashore has the fantastic talent to create captivating worlds, with stunning characters and my only wish is that we could get more of her writing because I can’t be sated!