Title: Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)
Author: Kristin Cashore
Published: May 2012 (Dial)
Summary: 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 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.
My Review: Bitterblue was definitely one of my most-awaited books of the year. I absolutely fell in love with Graceling when I read it last year, and I loved Fire nearly as much. I couldn't wait for the next (and final, as far as I know *sob*) book in the story! But along with this anticipation came the fear it wouldn't live up to my expectations, as well as the desire for the story of the Graceling Realm to never, ever end. Therefore, I let it sit on my library pile for weeks before I finally picked it up. Once I finally did, though, I never wanted to set it back down!
Writing this review is going to be difficult because I have some conflicted feelings about Bitterblue. I've taken a couple days to sort them out, though, and I think I'm finally able to articulate them without writing down my reaction to EVERYTHING, which would include some massive spoilers. There will still be some minor spoilers for the earlier books in the series, though, so be warned!
It was great to see Bitterblue grown up. I really felt for her and all her problems as an 18-year-old queen who knew very little about her own country, limited only to what her advisers saw fit to tell her. I found her an interesting character. I didn't think she'd be as fierce as Katsa or Fire, but Bitterblue was fierce in her own way: intelligence. She could do crazy hard math problems, all in her head. She purposefully wrote in ciphers. Bitterblue was also a very genuine person; she stayed true to herself and did her best to act on what she felt was best, if possible.
I loved so much about this book. One of the main things I loved - and didn't expect at all - was that Katsa and Po were in it, and not just brief mentions! That made me supremely happy. The secondary characters including Teddy, Raffin, Bann, and others were wonderful. I even grew to appreciate some I didn't think I would like in the beginning. I vaguely remembered Giddon from Graceling, but more his name than anything else. Over the course of Bitterblue, I totally fell for him. I would love to read a book all about him! I am intrigued by his past, but I really want to know what came next for him. Another factor I loved about the book was how personal it was; unfailingly, every time I took a break then came back to the book, I felt a mild shock when I remembered it was written in third person. It just felt so intensely personal that I expected to be reading from Bitterblue's first person POV. I just thought that was something that was interesting and warranted a mention.
Now, onto Saf. I don't really know where to start. Saf was a thief. But an honorable thief who was fiercely loyal to those he cared about. His relationship with Bitterblue was messed up from the beginning. As a queen and a commoner, there was no possibility of a normal romance for them, ever. It was interesting to see how their story was handled, even though there were some things about it that didn't quite sit right with me. I really felt the beautiful connection between the two of them.
The plot for Bitterblue was interesting and complicated and, at times, difficult to read. From his first introduction in Graceling, you know that Leck was one messed up, evil guy. You get a little more of him in Fire. But until you read Bitterblue, you don't even know the half of it. Bitterblue really had a challenge in front of her, trying to rectify damage done to an entire kingdom over the course of a 35-year-long reign of a madman.
The main thing I didn't like about Bitterblue was the lack of closure on several fronts. That's all I will say about the matter, because it would be impossible to get into without going spoiler crazy. I can appreciate it on one hand, because it added a dash of realism. There were obviously some things that simply couldn't be resolved unless the book went on for years and years. But some things I felt could have been handled better.
Supposedly, Bitterblue can be read as a standalone. I suppose this is true, but I would highly discourage anyone from attempting this. For one, it would probably be confusing. For another, you would not get anything near the full impact of the story, especially regarding several of the characters. Last, but not least, Bitterblue would spoil several things about both Graceling and Fire that would lessen your enjoyment of those books should you want to read them later.
I could probably say more, but I have rambled on long enough. I have no idea how the review got this long already! Overall, even though I was disappointed in some aspects of it, Bitterblue was an addicting (though I was reading under a library deadline, which may have heightened the addicting effect), solid, and enjoyable addition to the Graceling Realm.
❝Bacon improved things dramatically.❞
❝She was trying to come up with a casual way to broach an unapproachable topic. How is everyone feeling today? Did you all sleep well? Anyone missing any gargoyles?❞
❝The more I see and hear, the more I realize how much I don’t know. I want to know everything.❞
❝Think how satisfying it’ll be to attack me with a sword.❞
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