Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling #3
Release Date: May 2012
Publisher: Dial Books
Short of it: While it got off to a slow start, Bitterblue was a worth the long wait. Cashore weaved the companion novels together gracefully. My only slight disappointment was I wanted more. The story wraps nicely, but I feel like there is still so much to tell. My hope is that Cashore will decide to revisit the Seven Kingdoms in the future.
Plot: The storyline for this one starts off quite slow, but for good reason. Bitterblue has been kept under mountains of paperwork since she took her reign and has no idea what is happening in her kingdom. The web of lies and deceit that Lech weaved was enormous and would have been difficult for Bitterblue to sort through with an army of help behind her. It’s near impossible to do when everyone is trying to derail her. Not to mention her own memories are quite hazy. Honestly, I’m glad Cashore didn’t rush that period of awakening, even if it meant a slowly, less-action filled beginning.
However, once Bitterblue starts to take action into her own hands, things really start to roll. I don’t want to give away too much of the book, so I won’t say too much more. Old favorites, including Katsa and Po, will return and the many truths will be revealed. The depths of Lech madness is horrifying, although not surprising. While Bitterblue will never know the full story to his madness, this is most likely for the best. I doubt any reasoning could make his madness okay. Not to mention anything more would have been too much for poor Bitterblue to handle. While strong, I believe knowing everything would have made her crumble.
Character: I liked Bitterblue. She was a bit naive and too trusting, but all things considered it is understandable. She had been thrown into this position when she was only 10 years old with very little training. The people around her were supposed to help build a better Kingdom, not keep her in the dark. Bitterblue does have spunk though. She may not be a Katsa, but in her position she could never be that brazen or bold. However, when she realized how many lies has been fed to her over the years, she had no problem finding out the truth on her own. Yes, she may have been a bit foolish at time, but she learned from every mistake and used it to make herself stronger. Bitterblue has all the makings of a good Queen and the legacy she leaves behind would make her mother proud.
I know this story is about Bitterblue, but I wanted to touch a bit on Po. Out of the characters we’ve seen before he around the most. Po has always been one of my favorite characters, but I felt like some of his charm was missing in this story. I can’t put my finger quite on it, but he felt different. I know a lot had to do with the guilt of hiding his secret, but that was something he had been dealing with most of his life. I know Cashore was trying to compensate for her “cureness” for being blind, but in the process she changed him. Don’t get me wrong, I still adore Po, but he just wasn’t the same. I’d be interested to see if anyone else felt the shift/change in him as well.
Romance: Oh, Saf and Bitterblue. I feel like I can’t say too much without giving anything away with this one. While they were from different worlds, they worked. Saf was the spark she needed to push her out of her shell and truly open her eyes. Without him, I thinks he would have stayed in the web of lies much, much longer than she did. He was her guide, per say, to a world she knew nothing about. His street smarts helped her get around and, honestly, stay alive. Yes, they fought, but there were true, deep feelings for each other. I was pleased with how Cashore handled their relationship, especially the final outcome.
I do believe there is a secondary relationship between Gideon and Bitterblue as well. Okay, so this may be reaching a little, but I think it’s still plausible, especially near the end. In no way, shape, or form does Cashore state they are romantically entwined, but there are little hints that they could be if Saf doesn’t work out. The seedlings are there, but I suppose it will be up to the reader if it ever blooms. (And personally, I think it will, but I don’t want to spoil things for anyone who has not read it yet.)
Writing: Cashore is a brilliant writer and Bitterblue is no exception. All three of her books have been captivating. The worlds and characters she creates are some of my favorite to exist. I was sad to turn the last page as it felt like I was saying goodbye to dear friends. I can’t wait to meet her next week and express my love in person. And I certainly can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.
Librarian-Mode: I’m going to assume that anyone who has read Bitterblue has already read Graceling and Fire as well. There are many great fantasy novels out there, but I think Tamora Pierce is one of the best matches for Cashore lovers, especially her Tricksters duo and Beka Cooper trilogy.