Bitterblue (Graceling Realms #3)
Publication Date: May 1st 2012
Genre: Fantasy, Young Ault
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 have been waiting to read Bitterblue for so long that when it was released, I could hardly believe I could actually read it. Then I realized that Kristin Cashore was coming to my alma mater's town and I wasn't there to see her and I became rather upset (I believe I tweeted about it), soon after a close friend of mine from college came to my rescue and vowed to go to the book signing for me and get me Bitterblue, so I waited until I could head up to Chicago and get it from her.
My personalized signed copy of Bitterblue may now be one of the greatest treasures that I own.
Back to the actual book, however, it is just as good as Graceling and Fire, perhaps even better. It takes about eight/nine years after Graceling and possibly around twenty five plus after Fire, and the tie is King Leck, though he is now dead, his legacy continues to affect the
. It is a beautiful tale of how
much damage Leck had done to Monsea and how damage like that isn't easily
fixed. land of Monsea
Queen Bitterblue marks another strong female character Cashore has brought us, but what I like is that she is strong in a different way. She has no Grace or special ability, she is not especially strong or good with a weapon, but instead she uses her mind and loves her people, wanting to help them, but feeling trapped. Her characterization raises my respect for Cashore as she truly felt like a person, rather than a character in a book. She had her own faults, her own little habits, and though she tried her hardest she didn't always win.
The illustrations in Bitterblue are also a fantastic addition to the book. They fit perfectly with the feel of the story, on top of having many new beautiful maps to look at. I also really liked how the book was split up into parts (I am finding this structure more and more in YA books and I have to admit I really like how it ends up working). It helped me to keep track of the timeline in the novel, while separating each focus in the book in a nice way.
The way Leck had affected the minds of Bitterblue's advisors and what he did to them was so terrible. They honestly had all gone crazy, and who could blame them. They were forced to do things that were terrible just for a sociopath's whims. The fact that two of them commited suicide is heartbreaking, but not unexpected, and when you realize these things, the list Bitterblue makes in the beginning when she starts to want to know what's going on seems so childish.
On the other hand, the fact that Bitterblue discovers that Hava is her sister filled me with happiness, I started guessing that they were sisters about 3/4ths through the book when it became apparent that her mother had been in the castle and keeping a secret from Leck. It is nice to leave Bitterblue as a reader without feeling like we are leaving her all alone.
Speaking of being alone, I really liked the way that Bitterblue and Sapphire were handled as a couple as well. It feels so much like first love and sometimes it doesn't always work out. They loved each other, but a fight and the situation pushed them apart and they let it happen. I do wonder however where Bitterblue well end up in the end heart wise.
Speaking of relationships, Fire and Brigan are still together! This pleases me so! It also pleased me a lot to see Fire coming through to Monsea. She really could identify with Bitterblue, considering their fathers, and it was really nice seeing Graceling and Fire truly connected by having Katsa and Fire meet each other and not just be known to have the same enemy at some point in their lives.
I recommend this book to everyone! Okay, maybe not everyone, but it has actually pushed out and above Graceling in my top ten favourite books to read. I'll probably reread it to death like I did Graceling, although I will work hard to keep it in good quality. It is a very well written book, and one of the best "clean up" books I've read in YA (Other "clean up" books include Outside In by Maria V. Snyder, and both Hunger and Lies by Michael Grant).