Back cover blurb: Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea, still under the influence of her father Leck, a violent psychopath who altered minds. Her advisers want to pardon evildoers and forget everything, but she sees the past holds fast. Two thieves, who only steal what has been stolen, hold the truth and change her life. One, his Grace skill unidentified, has a key to her heart.
I recently finished Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore and I have to say it is up there among my favorite books.
I’ve read a lot of reviews of this book and in my opinion, the lower-ranking reviews were unfair, though understandable. Cashore’s first book, Graceling, set the stage for an EPIC tale. The world was richly woven, the characters complex and quirky. The love affair open, honest, selfless. No strings attached. I suppose those who picked up Bitterblue were expecting the same sort of ‘Epic-ness’, a novel with intensity and a high action plot. But Bitterblue, the main character, is not Katsa from Graceling. Her journey is quite different. The trajectory of the story is not the same. I, personally, loved the difference in these two books. They are not reliant on each other. The plots are independent yet intertwined. They are two stories containing the same characters, each heroine dealing with who they are, what they are to become, and trying to find their way in a confusing, disjointed world.
In Graceling, Katsa set out to end the tyranny in Monsea. Bitterblue picks up nine years later. Our heroine, Queen Bitterblue, is trying to understand her role as queen amidst a kingdom she doesn’t know or understand. The plot line moves along slowly at times, giving us time to absorb information at the same rate as our heroine. We see her predicaments through her eyes. We feel her feelings. We experience her exasperations as if we are in the same room with her. We unlock the mysteries, the clues together. It’s a wonderful experience.
I love that the plot is so unpredictable and the way Cashore weaves all the characters together is brilliant. It read like a who-done-it in a way. Cashore was brilliant at dropping clues and hints for Bitterblue and the reader to figure out. There is such a huge network of betrayal and sorting out the good from the bad is time-consuming and mind-bending. I also believe Cashore deals with very sensitive issues in a loving, caring manner, exposing the bitterness and harshness of realities but wrapping them all up in hope and warm, soothing light, showing teens that no matter how harsh reality is, there is always a new beginning.
I also like the way Cashore treats the topic of young feminine sexuality. Both with Katsa and Bitterblue, the discovery of their own sexuality is honest, careful and liberating. Unlike a certain recent urban romance series, Katsa and Bitterblue both make active choices with regards to their romantic companionship. The men they choose are handsome and there is always a friendship first, someone they develop a long-term commitment to without the stigma of love and marriage. It is through trials and tribulations and mistakes and grand intentions gone wrong that these women experience love the way it should be experienced. The chemistry is there, yet they feel strong enough in themselves they can walk away. They don’t NEED their men to complete them. They want them. Desire them, but more than anything, all parties respect each other and their spirits are completely compatible. Marriage is not pressed as a required state for feminine sexuality to take place. Many parents may find this bothersome, but I found it liberating and a wonderful message to young girls that they need to be strong in themselves and they don’t need men to make them into something, but rather they desire them to compliment who and what they are. I did have a small issue with what seemed to me was the equivalent of a ‘morning after pill’, but considering the character, her choice was understandable.
I am giving this book 4.5 stars. It is a great companion book to Graceling and Fire, (I have not read the latter). It is on my TBR list and I’m sure I will find it as engaging as Graceling and Bitterblue. Kristin Cashore is definitely on my list of fave YA authors, and I am looking forward to her next novel.