Author: Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #3
Released: May 1, 2012
My thoughts:From Goodreads: "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."
Oh, bother. Just like with the previous installment, Graceling, I'm struggling with how I feel about this book. I did enjoy it, but there were some problems I had with the book that kept me from loving it.
Some readers may be wondering if you absolutely must read Fire to follow Bitterblue. I didn't read Fire before reading Bitterblue as I wasn't certain if I wanted to invest time into reading it after my mixed feelings with Graceling, and it was merely a companion novel, not the sequel. Bitterblue can easily be read without first reading Fire, and I didn't feel as though I had missed anything.
In this book the story is told from the point of view of Bitterblue instead of Katsa, and she is now twenty and dealing with the aftermath of King Leck's reign. We still get to see characters we were introduced to us in Graceling, such as Katsa, Po, Raffin, Giddon, and Bann. They are involved in the story though they play more minor parts. Out of them, I think Po and then Giddon got the most page time. I really liked the characters, especially some of the new ones like the grouchy librarian Death (pronounced to rhyme with 'teeth'), Saf, and Teddy. But Po is easily my favorite character--he is very likable, kind, vulnerable, and strong.
There were a couple of things I liked better about Bitterblue than Graceling. First, I liked it being told from Bitterblue's perspective better, because Katsa often got on my nerves in Graceling. Second, there were far fewer glaring feminism themes; in Graceling I felt as though I was being pounded over the head with them and being preached a sermon about feminism. However, there were also things that I felt were better in Graceling. For one, the romance between Katsa and Po was MUCH better than the romance between Bitteblue and Saf. I'm so glad we get to still see both Katsa and Po in this book because they make an absolutely adorable couple, I love their romance! Also, I felt that the plot in Graceling was better and had more action.
Which brings me to the main problem I had with this book: the plot. I'm not quite sure how to explain it... First, I think that the book was just too long and it dragged in places. More and more questions kept being raised without others first being answered so that it was difficult to keep track of them all. And by the time one was answered it had been sitting on the back burner for so long that you had already forgotten about that piece of information. The plot to me felt somewhat jumbled and disconjointed, and I often wasn't sure what the main goal of the plot that the characters were working toward was supposed to be.
I was also disappointed in the romance. From the description I thought there would be more of it. In the beginning of the book it Saf and Teddy are constantly present, but then by the end they sort of fell into the background. After Bitterblue and Saf have an argument near the middle of the book, Saf isn't as present and other plot points in the story become more prominent and take up most of the page time, so that there really wasn't much romance. (Furthermore, Saf and Bitterblue's relationship frustrated me, but I can't explain why without spoiling things). Overall, I really liked Saf but I felt that he and Bitterblue were better as friends.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was well-written with likable characters, some nice surprises/twists, and set in a creative world that feels real. I would recommend it to fans of Graceling and Fire, or fans of High Fantasy. However, those who don't like long reads might want to skip this one. After finishing Bitterblue I decided that I do want to read Fire after all, and I will read any future books in this series.
My Rating:Writing: 5/5
Kept me interested: 4/5