1st May 2012
576 pages (hardcover)
Publisher - Dial
Source - Purchased
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 enjoyed Graceling, adored Fire, and absolutely loved Bitterblue. Unlike the protagonists of Cashore's previous novels, Bitterblue is not Graced or a monster. Instead, she's a queen who enjoys numbers, ciphers and stories. Throughout the novel, her deceased father's terrible Grace and actions still linger in Monsea. Betrayal, secrets, and lies run deeper than imaginable. Her kingdom is filled with oddities that no one wants to explain or fix. Each new twist brings another round of suspects, questions, and ultimately creates even more doubts about everything and everyone.
Curious revelations, first love, and Bitterblue's transformation into the queen Monsea needs, Bitterblue gradually builds into a phenomenal story. Bitterblue herself is a remarkable young woman with a subtle strength, sharp humor, and a need for truth. It was intriguing to watch her character grow with each chapter. Bitterblue delves deeper and into darker places in order to unravel the mysteries in Monsea. There are lovely, lighthearted moments, along with others that will have you near (or in) tears. All in all, Bitterblue is an outstanding novel well worth the time it takes to read each page.
Highlights: It was nice to see characters from Cashore's previous books be present in this one, and through Bitterblue's very observant view of them. Characters as a whole were very well written (especially Death1, Teddy, Saf, Po, Giddon, Leck, and Thiel). The extras at the end (cast of characters, drawings, et cetera) were fascinating. The ending, while a little bittersweet, was nicely done.
Lowlights: I wanted more pages. Seriously.
Note: As this is a sequel, reading Graceling is a must. I would recommend reading Fire since it will help make many moments more meaningful in the story.
1 Coolest librarian ever. I kind of wish I had his Grace.