Author: Kristin Cashore
Type: YA Fantasy
Release Date: May 1st 2012
**Spoilers if you haven’t read GRACELING yet! This is a SEQUEL!**
8 years after ‘Graceling‘ leaves off, Bitterblue’s story begins. Bitterblue has now been the queen of Monsea for 8 years, and she realizes that her people are… Crazy. Ever since her father died and left a kingdom in ruin, it seems like no one has quite recovered from Leck’s reign. His Grace has left a devastating, long-lasting mark on the citizens of Monsea, but most importantly on those that were closest to him; the people who run his castle, his advisers, and of course, Bitterblue herself.
One day, Bitterblue realizes that she has more questions about her kingdom than answers or ways to fix all the problems. Fresh out of her teen years, she begins to piece together the issues in Monsea, which are much greater than she could have ever imagined. Nighttime walks, a split personality, and new friends are just the beginning of what becomes of Monsea’s legacy of the future.
Weaving the stories and kingdoms of Graceling and Fire together, Bitterblue is a much less adventurous, but still thrilling final book in a trilogy that has seen its characters through a a world of mysteries and lies, all through the mind’s view of the young Queen of Monsea.
Bitterblue is a story that revisits old friends, and builds on characters that are long gone and yet frighteningly present in the novel. It is the story of a young girl who will do anything to save her kingdom, to be a good queen, and to end the torturous feelings that her father has left for all those remaining to suffer through. It is a story about friendship, a coming of age novel about love, and most importantly the redemption of a kingdom and of people who have been waiting over 40 years to live their lives happily.
I read this book at the same time as Jessica from Sweet Green Tangerine. It was through her book swap a few months ago that I got the novel ‘Graceling’, and finally in January I picked up that book and completely fell in love with this series. I breezed through the first two books in the trilogy, and then we decided we would read and discuss this final one together. I think in the end we felt very similar about it, but we definitely had some differing feelings in some places. If you’re a fan of the series, go check out her blog today as we’ve each reviewed the book on the same day to really put our thoughts out there about the whole series!
Here’s a breakdown of how I felt about the novel.
Bitterblue- She was not the character I had imagined from her younger days in ‘Graceling’. She’s not a fierce heroine in the same ways that Fire and Katsa were, but as the book develops I grew such an affinity for her, her mind, and the way she is trying to save her kingdom. She has always felt inferior to her adventurous counterpart Katsa, and that really shows in their interactions. But her unparalleled love for Monsea, and her fierce determination to be a great queen for her people is a wonderful perspective to read. She is intelligent, and Kristin Cashore truly develops Bitterblue in a way that I have never seen any other writer do with a main character.
Secondary characters- Saf, Teddy, Madlen, Helda, Fox, Hava, the four advisers, Holt, and Death. They were all intensely well written secondary characters, all serving a specific purpose to the development of the story, and all being required in Bitterblue’s life in some way or another. I didn’t like Saf for a very long time, and I can’t help but wonder if that was Kristin Cashore’s plan all along. When Bitterblue felt like her people were ‘crazy’ I truly felt that way too. When their feelings and thoughts are sorted out, I understood it through her. It was fascinating.
The return of previous characters- I was thrilled to see all the characters from Graceling and Fire return, even briefly. I wasn’t satisfied with the weird relationship that Katsa & Po had developed, but otherwise I think Kristin Cashore stayed true to all the others. I loved seeing their appearance throughout ‘Bitterblue’ and I think they all served a really interesting purpose to Bitterblue’s development throughout the novel. The lack of love and family in her life was balanced with the appearances of her friends from the other kingdoms.
The setting- Bitterblue’s castle was the setting for 90% of the novel, and I must admit this drove me slightly crazy… But I think that was the point, because Bitterblue herself is constantly going stir crazy, unable to understand why she is confined to her tower or her office all day, every day. It forces her out of her castle in the middle of the night, and as a reader I could feel the relief of being outside the walls of the castle. I was simultaneously incredibly impressed at how well the setting was conveyed for Bitterblue’s character and feeling like it was overdone, because I found myself feeling relatively bored in certain parts of the story, which dragged on in the castle.
Overall (I can’t believe the series is finished!)
By the end of the book, I have to say I was relieved it was over, because it was SUCH a long read, with very little action. But I was sad that there were no more books to read in the trilogy. The lack of adventure in Bitterblue compared to the other two was at times very frustrating, but her life, and Leck’s reign, became such a fascination for me that I just had to know what happened. I think King Leck will officially go down as one of the most terrifying ‘bad guys’ I have ever read about. I have never in my life read about such a terrifying fictional character, with such a depth that he FELT real.
I didn’t get as much closure in the end as I would have liked, but a lot of mysteries are solved so overall I was satisfied with the end result. I would love to see another book written in this series, the introduction of another fascinating Graceling some years down the line in another one of the kingdoms, perhaps? All I know is that I am so sad I have no more of Kristin Cashore’s work to read, and I really can’t wait to see what she writes next!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Thanks again for introducing me to her work, Jessica!