Author: Kristin Cashore
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Graceling Realm (Book 3)
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Format: Hardback, 576 Pages
ISBN-10: 0803734735 (Dial/Penguin)
ISBN-13: 978-0803734739 (Dial/Penguin)
Reviewed by: Kristie
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.
Quick & Dirty: Excellent fantasy that focuses on mystery, problem solving and political intrigue. The story raises so many questions that it will have you hooked waiting for the answers.
Opening Sentence: When he grabs Mama’s wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt.
Eight years have passed since the events of Graceling, when Bitterblue became Queen of Monsea. She is getting tired of the tediousness of life as a Queen, staying in her office and signing documents all day. She wants to know more about her kingdom and the people that live in it. She begins to sneak out at night. She begins attending secret story houses where she meets two mysterious boys, one of whom she knows is a thief. She spends her days dreaming about sneaking out again at night. She begins to develop a relationship with Teddy and Saf, learning that things in her kingdom aren’t as she is led to believe.
Bitterblue questions her advisors about the secrets she has been hearing when she leaves the castle at night and about her fathers’ reign. She wants to know how to make her kingdom better. Bitterblue’s advisors help her with uncovering the truth but strange things begin to happen, people in her kingdom are acting out of character. She believes it has something to do with her father but she can’t quite figure it out.
Bitterblue is joined by Katsa, Po, Giddon and others as they work for the Council and use her castle as a base as they plan their next operation. Po and Giddon seem to spend the most time with Bitterblue but she does spend a little time with Katsa as she comes and goes from the castle. She does get their help and advice when she needs it most. Saf is the thief that Bitterblue falls for in the heat of the moment. He is very hot and cold and treats Bitterblue harshly at times. Saf has some potential but he is a free spirit. I do like him but I have my hopes set for someone else for Bitterblue. Teddy makes friends with Bitterblue very easily, he believes he can trust her. He is a truthseeker and he reveals to Bitterblue the problems with her kingdom. Teddy is a nice, sweet character and I would like to see more of him in the future.
Bitterblue is left out of quite a bit of the action. Other characters get to go off and have the adventures while she is stuck in the castle. Of course, this doesn’t mean nothing happens to her, she gets her share of action in the beginning half of the book while the second half is filled with political intrigue and problem-solving. Bitterblue does come off a little naïve at times but she has good intentions. She wants to make her kingdom and the people living in it better.
The world that Kristin Cashore has created is still engrossing and mesmerizing. Many new characters and abilities have been added into the story. Since the story is strictly from Bitterblue’s point of view, the world only takes place in Bitterblue City and her castle. Some places are elaborated by stories that other characters tell.
The plot isn’t very strong, in the way that there are a lot of plot points going on: Saf’s graceling ability is a mystery, why are people acting strange, the Council wants to overthrow the government in Estill (the country to the north of Monsea), a mysterious tunnel appears (where does it go?), tons of bones are found (whose are they?), and what did King Leck do during his reign as king. Most of these points are resolved but a few are left hanging, presumably for the next book.
Overall, Bitterblue is an entertaining fantasy about a lonely girl who wants her friends to be by her side and wants to be a good Queen. If you enjoy a good young adult fantasy then I would recommend this series.
Finally, she said in a small, clear voice, “I have lied, Saf, but never with the intention of hurting you or your friends, or any truthseekers, or anyone, I swear it. I only ever went out to see what my city was like at night, because my advisors keep me blind in a tower and I wanted to know. I never meant to meet you. I never meant to like you and I never meant to become your friend. Once I did, how was I to tell you the truth?”
She couldn’t see him, but he seemed to be laughing. “You’re unbelievable.”
“Why? What is it? Explain what you mean!”
“You seem to have this daydream,” Saf said, “that when we were spending time together and I didn’t know you were the queen, we were friends. Equals. But knowledge is power. You knew you were the queen and I didn’t. We have never once been equal, and as far as friendship goes,” he said—then stopped. “Your mother is dead,” he said in a different voice, bitter, and final. “You’ve lied to me about everything.”
“I told you things that were more precious to me than the truth,” she whispered.
A silence stretched between them, empty. A distance. It lasted a long, long time.
“Let’s suppose for a minute that you’re telling the truth,” he finally said, “about not being the person behind the attacks.”
“I am telling the truth,” she whispered. “Saf, I swear it. The only thing I lied about is who I am.”
The Graceling Realm Series:
FTC Advisory: Penguin/Dial provided me with a copy of Bitterblue. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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