August 1st, 2012


by Kristin Cashore

Ana's Rating

Readers Rating

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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.

I’m going to begin this review by stating that I am in general disagreement with most reviewers out there when it comes to Bitterblue. I love this book, and despite (or perhaps in spite) of all of its negative reviews, I’m going to sing praise here. You’ve been warned.

As this is the third book in the Graceling Realm series, I think that we’ve already established that this world building is really freaking amazing. What with the kingdoms, the castles, the bridges, the Gracelings… I’m really starting to wonder why I don’t read more fantasy. Contemporary reads hold no competition when it comes to this element.

I really love Bitterblue as a character. Contrary to Miss Cashore’s other protagonists, Bitterblue has no super powers. She’s not graced with fighting, or with survival. Her hair does not captivate and dumbfound those around her. No, she’s just a normal girl– who happens to be a queen. It is for this reason, I believe, that I find Bitterblue so easy to relate to. She made me laugh, she made me cry, she made me try exciting new hairstyles involving a headful of braids… just see for yourself.

“I hear that you’re supposed to be good at manipulating people. Try a little harder to make me like you, all right? I’m the queen. Your life will be nicer if I like you.

“I threw a few chickens around before I came up the ladder,” he said. “You didn’t hear them making a racket?”

“I was distracted by the conviction that I was going to die.”

If a situation presented itself in which the right and the wrong seemed clear to her, then she was going to grab on tight. The world presented too few anchors for her to let one pass.

Bitterblue isn’t the only character who I enjoyed. Cashore’s recurring cast, involving Po, Skye, Giddon, Katsa, Raffin and Bann, was absolutely delightful. It was strange—in a wonderful type-way—to see them as a bunch of almost-30-year-olds, but I was terribly happy to see them regardless.

As for Bitterblue‘s romantic scene, I agree that it’s not exactly… prevalent. Bitterblue and Saf’s relationship, though crucial to the novel’s plot, never takes precedence over other subplots and does not develop in the ways that Graceling‘s and Fire‘s romances so obviously did. However, as Kristin Cashore has pointed out herself, this is due to the simple fact that Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea. She’s struggling to find solid ground in a kingdom whose most recent past has been submerged in a sea of lies and battling to forge a relationship with her people, whom she’s discovering she doesn’t know in the least. And let’s not forget that, as queen, Bitterblue will be expected to marry nobility and produce heirs sometime in the near future. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a teenage girl; if boy craze were at the forefront of Bitterblue’s mind, I’d
have been worried.

Furthermore, others have blatantly suggested that Bitterblue, at 547 pages (hardcover edition), is exorbitantly long and unbearably boring. Apparently, its subplots are too unruly and its mystery is too hard to follow, and so the whole novel becomes an unreadable mess.  To say that I am in disagreement with this supposition is too weak; I’ve been glued to this book for the past three days. Literally. My family and I went out to dinner yesterday, and I read Bitterblue under the table until my grandmother tsked a warning and then, after a few minutes, yelled at me. I guess that indulging oneself in riveting novels is rude. In any case, even at 547 pages, I was sad to see Bitterblue end.

Because, the truth is, this ending was very unsatisfactory. So many loose ends were left untied, and my mind is filled with questions. What will become of Saf and Bitterblue’s extremely unclear relationship? What about the Council—will it succeed in its work? And that land to the east—what of its relationship with Monsea and the rest of the known world?

Honestly, what is with Kristin Cashore and her non-endings? The number 1 problem with each of her books is their major
cliffhanger finales. The least she can do at this point is grace us with another Graceling Realm book. No, seriously. I’m not kidding. I need another Graceling Realm book. Soon.

Bitterblue merits 4.8/5 stars. For fans of majorly awesome world building, a riveting plot, and ungraceful final outcomes.


I’ll keep you posted,

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