Monday, June 4, 2012
Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore- Review
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.
Long, long ago, in the very beginnings of this blog, I read Graceling and Fire, and loved them. Kick ass heroines, great stories, all sorts of heart, beautiful covers, what more could you want? They were my favorite kind of fantasy and reminded me of my beloved Tamora Pierce in all the very best ways. After completing them I jumped on Cashore's blog to see what was next only to discover she was writing a third book in the same world called Bitterblue. Exciting!
After three years of missed release dates, blog silences and other mysterious non-news about Bitterblue there was suddenly a PW article that explained it all, hallelujah! Cashores many rabid fans waited for its release, earlier this month, with baited breath. Could it live up to this level of anticipation? The cover was beautiful, and matched the rest of the series (yay!), but would the story live up to three years of burning want of more?
In short, yes.
Bitterblue was the perfect final piece, to a masterfully crafted trilogy. Billed as sequels, prequels and companion books, but never as a series, I think it's most true to say these three books should be read as a closed set- whatever you want to call it. Chronologically you would read them in the order of Fire, Graceling and then Bitterblue but Graceling and Fire could be read in either order, so long as you finished off with Bitterblue as it's really the concluding piece to the puzzle.
Once again Cashore has written a fantastic leading girl. Bitterblue is empathetic, smart, cool under pressure and is quickly becoming a formidable ruler. Yet unlike Fire or Katsa, Bitterblue has no extraordinary powers, which I particularly loved about her. She's not fantastically beautiful, or unbelievably clever, there's no sweeping love story or secret discovery that she's graced, she's just a girl trying to be good at the job she was born to do, and correct the horrible things her father has done to her country. She's such an every girl, whose surrounded by the extraordinary and yet somehow Cashore has made her extraordinary in her ordinariness. It's unbelievably delightful.
Po, Katsa, Fire and a whole host of other characters make either cameos or extended jaunts through the story, which is also thoroughly rewarding. Cashore delves further into some of their personalities and relationships, revealing all sorts of hotly contested and wondered things, and just generally giving us more of all the characters you've grown to love. I especially loved how she drew together the Dells and Fire to Bitterblue and the impact it has on everyone as they discover Leck's origins.
Best of all? Dial has packaged this masterpiece up in an astoundingly beautiful way. People were commenting on how gorgeous my book was, continually, as I read it. And it is, but it's also clever, oh so clever. The beautiful exterior blue cover with the mysterious three keys, that matches the previous two covers, but underneath it's a rich dark purple- with a mysterious solitary key. I have a theory which I'll share in the comments if you're interested, since it's totally spoilery. I'm not sure I've ever read a book whose cover and binding alludes to secrets in the story or are in any way particularly clever, but I love it! I want more of it! The inside of the book is also gorgeous, with maps and all sorts of chapter art all in the same dark purple.
I finished Bitterblue with a big and contented sigh. It was everything I'd hoped for and more. If you haven't read these three books then you're missing out on some of the best in YA fantasy currently available. You're also missing out on some of the best YA heroines you could possibly read about. Basically, you're missing out, so don't.
And YES! I almost flipped out when I realised Kristin would be at the BEA this year!! Signing Bitterblue! WELL, guess whose obviously getting another copy?! Wednesday June 6th, she's signing in-booth from 11am-12, and then again at the autographing area from 10:30-11:30am on Thursday June 7th at table 4. Will I see you there?
Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore
Published by Dial, May 1st, 2012
Buy Bitterblue on Amazon