Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Eight years after watching her father, King Leck, be killed and inheriting the troubled kingdom of Monsea, Bitterblue still feels a long way from being settled as Queen. Secrets surround her. Secrets from her father's reign of terror, secrets about her own memories of her childhood, and the secrets seemingly everyone seems to hide in Monsea. Well Bitterblue is tired of secrets and the endless drudgery of pushing papers and signing documents -- she wants a chance to truly understand her people and their struggles. And so one night she decides to secretly leave the castle to do just that. Disguised and alone, she begins her exploration of Bitterblue City. What Bitterblue discovers on her nighttime wanderings is confusing, exhilarating and depressing all at once. In the secluded story rooms her people gather to recount tales of Leck's reign (often different from Bitterblue's own memories) and the adventures of renowned Gracelings such as Katsa and Po. There she also meets Saf and Teddy, two thieves who only steal what has already been stolen and who slowly teach Bitterblue about the real underlying problems of Monsea. Underscoring all this new information is the fact that as much as everyone seems to want to forget Leck and his horrible legacy, Bitterblue begins to understand that her people must uncover their hidden past before they can ever move forward.

Well, well, well. Talk about your emotional read. Like many of you I'm sure, Bitterblue is one of those books that I have been building up in my mind for a long time. Graceling effortlessly wowed me and Fire left me stunned beyond recognition so that I have been earnestly waiting this sequel of sorts ever since. What Kristin Cashore delivers is extremely different from her previous novels although strikingly similar at the same time. Bitterblue centers around many of the same characters we've come to love, like Katsa, Po, Giddon and even Fire makes an appearance but Bitterblue is decidedly a more quiet novel filled with political maneuverings and inner turmoil. For much of the book, Bitterblue is frustrated by her lack of understanding for what her people faced during her father's reign. Especially since she feels that to finally overcome their struggles, she has to know what demons they face daily. This is never more apparent within her own set of advisers, talented men who also served under Leck but who cannot seem to help Bitterblue move the kingdom in the direction she knows it must go. I'm sure partly this is intentional, but I became extremely frustrated with the runaround Bitterblue got from her advisers. Too much time was spent agonizing over and over the same details that I wish certain parts had been resolved a little more quickly.

Although I cannot say enough about the quality of Kristin Cashore's writing, in my opinion Bitterblue is not as strong a book as either Fire or Graceling. While excellent at developing feelings and the unraveling of secrets, I felt as if too much time in Bitterblue was devoted to political intrigues and the quest to understand history. I was not able to spend as much time with the people I really wanted to learn more about: Saf, Death (a fearful librarian who utterly stole my heart), Teddy, Giddon and many others. Frankly, although I was pleased with how Bitterblue's story was concluded as far as Monsea is concerned, I was not at all pleased with how we left her personally. Especially since Ms. Cashore gave us over 500 pages to get to that point! In the interest of not getting spoilery, suffice to say I feel like I still need yet another Bitterblue book to assure myself that she is truly going to be alright. I understand that such an emotional book was not meant to wrap up everything in a pretty little bow but I would liked to have seen a bit more resolution regarding her personal relationships. But that is not to say that Bitterblue isn't a beautiful book full of drama and ciphers and danger. It is. It's just not what I was expecting -- for good or bad.

series reading order:
~ Graceling - my review
~ Fire - my review
~ Bitterblue

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
Chachic's Book Nook review
Good Books & Good Wine review
The Readventurer review

book source: ARC from the publisher

1 comment:

Chachic said...

Michelle, I love this review! It looks like we felt the same way about the book. I'm glad I read it but I didn't love it as much as her earlier novels. I'm really looking forward to her next book though, I've heard it's going to be a contemporary YA novel.