sequel to Graceling, companion to Fire, book III in Graceling Realm trilogy
Was it just me, or did the 3 years between the release of Fire and Bitterblue just stretch into an agonizingly long time in which I slowly and steadily fell into a Cashore-withdrawal and reread Graceling an absurd amount of times?
**This review is pretty much spoiler free**
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.
My Expectations: exceedingly high, I mean, I've only been lusting for this for like.. 3 years.
Delivery: oh my god, what a ride. I loved it.
Put-down-ability: so low! 1.5/10
Kristin Cashore, in my honest opinion, is the reigning YA fantasy queen. THE. QUEEN.* And Bitterblue is so fracking good, it’s like I’m waving my hands as I’m trying to type this review trying to gesticulate my feelings and emotions after this 500+ page beast.
I loved it. I loved it and I loved reading it, and it’s a book in which I remember why I love reading. I haven’t had the chance to read too many YA books this year, but this book just swept me off my feet and easily stuck me into world Cashore created that’s vivid, treacherous and beautiful. It reminded me of the power of words and the impact and magic that words on a page and weave at the hands of a person who is a master of the craft.
I wanted to start with the plot, because I do feel that was the most conflicting part of the book for me. I liked its general concept but I did feel it was lacking at parts. To tell the truth, I felt the book was too long. And let me first say that I am not at all intimidated by a long book—it was just that the length caused the plot to drag as one too many subplots were developed. One thing I definitely noticed was that despite the page count, Cashore went for quality over quantity. This is important, I promise you, because it felt that each subplot, each character was deserved and earned. I was able to understand and come to love characters (some might surprise you). However, as each story ran its course, the story felt bogged down with too many details about too many things, and sometimes I was wishing the it would just move along. One example was The Council—no spoiler here, I just want to say I disliked its role in the story as more as a device than a subplot, yet so much time was put into it being a subplot.
I seriously loved the twists and turns in this installment, I knew from the beginning to expect some mind-bending turns of events, so I was kept guessing throughout the book. I wasn’t exactly mind-blown but I appreciated the fact that I was kept on my toes and second-guessing and even triple-guessing every character encountered. I really liked the somewhat surprising last 100 pages too!
I know a ton of people were excited to see the beloved Katsa and Po to return (I sure was) and I kind of liked the way Cashore described them. I’m not going to elaborate further, I’ll just said that I was slightly surprised but ultimately happy with the way their characters were handled—they were simultaneously true to their core characters yet allowed to develop off-screen over the years into wholesome people as well. But let’s face it, this story was Bitterblue’s and she was a hell of a character.
Put into a position of queen at the age of 10, Bitterblue is now 18 and surrounded by her most trusted advisors, yet somewhat shielded and oblivious to her country at the beginning. A few midnight escapades and eye-opening experiences later.. well.. the story starts rolling. She starts actively seeking for the truth and that really is what the story is about, the truth and the tragic history behind Monsea and the people. Her character growth was truly phenomenal. Comparing where she began the story and the person she was at the end was just a gift, and I thought that Cashore really put Bitterblue in so many different devastating or crazy situations that forced her to use her wits or prove her worth as opposed to being saved by a knight in shining armour. And Saf? Uhmm, he was okay. Not Po-esque, but decent. I really want to mention another character that I came to love, but I don’t want to spoil it! Starts with G.
And Leck. Damn, what a villain. I’m both repelled and impressed by the level of Creepy (capital C) and how evil and twisted he was. Despite his death, the stench of his rule lingers over the country and acts as a huge hurdle for Bitterblue.
And oh my friggen god, can I just fall over at the gorgeousness of the writing? I feel that Cashore has really matured as a writer and despite a more fast-paced Graceling debut, Bitterblue’s prose is luscious without being purple. It’s actually quite simplistic at times but somehow, in terms of ‘bigger picture’ it just works and I loved the third person POV. I felt the novel was also extremely visual in almost a subtle way, because despite no long trekking journeys, Cashore made the castle come to life with apt descriptions of both architecture and art.
Lastly, I’ll add that Bitterblue has a different feel to it compared to Graceling and Fire. It might be because well, Bitterblue is refreshingly human, but I’ll still say that the vibe in Bitterblue really does feel like the series, despite it having a different ‘tone’.
ASDLKFJLKJ I NEED TO STOP GUSHING.
Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations/Outstanding
Recommended for: ALL YA readers, I feel like Cashore is a must-read author for any voracious fan of YA
Acknowledgements: this lady understands that sometimes people read acknowledgements before the book, and kindly included a spoiler warning! Hahaha, seriously! So just for that, and for a lovely one in general, 5/5
9.1/10 – because it’s one of my favourite reads so far of the year. The writing is breathtaking, the world-building is downright magical and the whole essence and feel of the novel was amazing. I loved the returning and new characters, and I loved Bitterblue’s character growth. The only thing stopping me from giving it like, a 9.6, is the fact that despite a wonderfully direct and imaginative plot, the story dragged because of too many subplots that were developed maybe too thoroughly. However, this won’t stop me from declaring my love for this book and encouraging every single YA fantasy fan to pick this up. If you liked Graceling or Fire, you don’t’ want to miss this.
*because Melina Marchetta is pretty much my fave contemporary author, despite her ridiculous talent in the fantasy department, and that I actually never finished Megan Whalen Turner’s series..
source: borrowed from Rachel at Reading Timbits, thank you SO much!!!! :D
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