Release: May 1, 2012
Others in the Series: Graceling and Fire
The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire
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.
With her much-anticipated third book, Kristin Cashore returns readers to the Graceling realm. Eight years have passed since Graceling’s Katsa and Po rid the kingdom of Monsea of the monstrous King Leck. Now, Leck’s daughter, Bitterblue, sits on the throne. But, as she’s slowly learning, possessing the throne and ruling the kingdom are two very different things.
Readers meet Bitterblue right as the young queen begins her journey to truly know, and rule, the kingdom she has been entrusted with. Terrorized as a child and burdened with great responsibility at a young age, Bitterblue proves to be a fascinating protagonist. She is timid but brave, quiet but cunning, and innocent but embittered. Like the rest of her kingdom, she bears the scars of Leck’s reign. Only, unlike the rest of the kingdom, she refuses to have the secrets and pain of those years brushed under the rug.
And so, Bitterblue – and readers – are taken on a whirlwind journey to find truth in a world poisoned by lies.
Compared to Fire and Graceling, Bitterblue is rather low-concept. The plot rolls along seemingly idly, occasionally bumping over a twist or secret. Though I knew the novel was approaching some great secret – Cashore is known for her intricate plots – I spent the majority of the book thinking very little of the plot. Instead, my attention was focused on Bitterblue’s growth as an individual and as a queen; Saf and Teddy’s seemingly nefarious plans; the advisors’ odd behaviors; and the going ons of Katsa, Po, Giddon, and the rest of the Council. In short, I simply enjoyed being in the Graceling Realm again.
In Bitterblue, Cashore introduces readers to a different kind of leading lady. Unlike Katsa and Fire, she is not gifted in some extraordinary way (other than ruling a kingdom, of course), is not off on some wild adventure, and generally does not engage in any kind of combat. Her greatest weapon is not her looks or her brawn, it is her mind. Over the course of the novel, Bitterblue proves to be a cunning young woman time and time again, solving difficult ciphers and piecing together difficult puzzles.
The most intriguing of these puzzles being Leck’s reign. Bitterblue’s detective work and the small clues hidden throughout the castle provided numerous surprises, often leaving me trying to piece together the true history of the kingdom. Of course, Cashore found the perfect way to weave all of these loose ends together in an intriguing and surprisingly fitting ending.
My solitary complaint about this novel is that Bitterblue did not end up with Giddon, even if they were never intended to be a romantic pairing. There was a spark there, one I hoped and prayed Cashore would nurture. But, alas, no such thing happened.
As to whom Bitterblue ultimately ends up with, you will have to read to find that out.
Fire has met its match in Bitterblue. Equal parts charming, inventive, and intriguing, Bitterblue is sure to enchant readers, whether they are old fans of the Graceling series or just discover it.
P.S. For those of you who, like me, preferred Fire to Graceling, do not fret. Just as Katsa and Po’s story plays a role in Bitterblue’s, so does Fire’s. I promise it will not disappoint.