Author: Kristin Cashore
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Genre: Teen/YA, Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
It’s eight years after the events of Graceling, eight confusing years since Katsa and Po killed the evil King Leck of Monsea, a man gifted with the ability to make others believe his terrible lies. His daughter Bitterblue is now queen of this realm, and she wants nothing more than to heal her people and help them move forward from their difficult past. But how can she help them if she doesn’t understand what they went through under Leck? Desperate to escape her ivory tower, Bitterblue begins sneaking into the city at night to meet her people for herself, but when what she finds there contradicts what her advisors tell her, she wonders who she can trust.
Bitterblue definitely starts off slow. Cashore takes time to build her story and put her characters in place. From the beginning, though, it’s clear that there is something desperately wrong with Bitterblue’s world. It’s not certain what that is, or if it can even be put into words, but a sense of wrongness pervades the entire novel. It’s this feeling that is the driving force in the novel, what pushes the reader to keep going. As Bitterblue begins to uncover the truth, things around her become deliciously complicated. It makes for an intriguing puzzle.
Bitterblue herself isn’t the most endearing character, admittedly. She is barely an adult, just eighteen years old, so it’s understandable why she acts like a teenager much of the time. But since this is a teenager who is queen of a realm, her immaturity does have consequences. That being said, this is a minor issue; Bitterblue becomes easier to like over the course of the novel, and by the end, when the reader is wonderfully buried in intrigue and conspiracy, issues with the main character will be the last thing on their mind.
I can’t say enough how compulsively readable Bitterblue is. Cashore’s writing is graceful and she builds the story so incredibly well. The reader is drawn into the queen’s tale, and while the story of her kingdom is more compelling than her personal journey, both are well-written and interesting. The mythology behind the book is rich and textured; I can only hope that Cashore chooses to write more books set in this world, as she’s creating such a wonderful fantasy realm.
Bitterblue is a sort of sequel to both Graceling and Fire. While it doesn’t matter which order you read those first two books in, be sure to read Bitterblue last. This book is a direct sequel to Graceling (yes, Katsa and Po make multiple appearances in Bitterblue and it is very satisfying) and there are some important references to Fire as well; if you haven’t read these two novels first, parts of Bitterblue may not make sense. However, you will still be able to muddle through and will likely enjoy it.
I thoroughly enjoyed Bitterblue and am not sure I have done it justice with this review. I absolutely loved how much Cashore drew me into this twisted, dark tale. It’s not for the faint of heart, as anyone who has read Graceling knows that Leck was a madman, but it’s well worth reading. The book has layer upon layer of deceit and lies, and peeling back each of these was incredibly entertaining. Despite the length, I read much of the book in one sitting because I simply could not put it down. I loved this book and can’t wait to see what Cashore does next.
Other books by Kristin Cashore: