Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3)
by Kristin Cashore
Hardcover, 563 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Dial
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire
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.
Graceling, the first book in Graceling Realm series, or The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy as I'd like to call it, has been one of my favorite books to date. The second book, Fire, didn't amaze me like Graceling did but I liked it a lot nonetheless. But as for Bitterblue... Well, I was hoping that this would at least be as good as Fire, if not as awesomely amazing as Graceling and also, I reaaally really really tried my best to like this, but I just couldn't. Maybe it's because I haven't recovered from my all-week obsession with my love, The Queen's Thief, and that when I read "thieves" from the synopsis, my expectations immediately shot way up high... Only to fall way too low.
Unlike Graceling and Fire which were more action-packed, Bitterblue focused more on mysteries and solving ciphers and puzzles that Leck left during his reign. Even several years after Leck's fall, the people of Bitterblue's Kingdom (which I already forgot the name of) are still struggling to recover from the horrors that were brought upon by their previous ruler.
The mystery was one of the most frustrating parts of the book. On one hand, it was one of the things I liked the most. I'd always liked that feeling like you already know the answer to the mystery and then BAM! You find out that you were just being misled. But on the other hand, I felt like the mystery was overdone and the secrets were redundant. Another thing I liked was, of course, *fans self* Po!!!!! I totally squealed like a fangirl when he showed up. Unfortunately for Katsa though, I used to fangirl about her but she lost her shine in Bitterblue. As well, the sweet moments between the two felt contrived.
Bitterblue, as a character, was an unremarkable one. I felt detached from her and I couldn't bring myself to care about what would happen to her. Her supposed love interest, Saf, intrigued me at first but as the story progressed, I became indifferent toward him. The most surprising character for me was Giddon. I hated him in Graceling but he was very likable in Bitterblue. I loved the friendship that developed between him and Po and I liked that he was a good friend to Bitterblue too. The romance here was quite subtle, though there was sex. I love subtle romance but I didn't appreciate the one Bitterblue had. (If you've read this book, I'd bet my two cents it disappointed you too.) The other side characters, most especially the palace people, were the most annoying! They made the stupidest decisions and they were all "crackpots." Even after I found out what made them the way they were, it was too difficult to sympathize with them especially when after they'd apologized, they still did the same mistakes again and again until the eye rolls became inevitable.
Bitterblue has all the aspects I liked in YA fantasy: a historical setting with a sneaky thief and royal people with cunning plans. Too bad that prior to reading this, I was rereading QT so I really couldn't appreciate all those aspects. I don't normally compare books - actually, I hate to compare books - so it hurt that during reading this, I kept thinking about how it fell flat compared to QT. I waited years to read Bitterblue and the disappointment aside, I also felt refreshed (and a little sad) knowing that another series I loved has come to an end. There's no doubt that Kristin Cashore is a talented writer and I would still love to read more of her future works.
Rating: 2/5 stars