August 06, 2012

Monday Review: BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore

If you haven't read the other two books in Cashore's Graceling trilogy, rest assured I will try to avoid too many spoilers in this review of the third book, but I will also say that if you are a fantasy fan, you should GO NOW AND READ THEM. If you HAVE read the other two books, you'll be relatively familiar with the storyline and main characters, so I'll try not to bore you with too much explaining in this review.

Reader Gut Reaction: As I just mentioned, if you're a fantasy fan, especially a fan of fantasy with strong female lead characters, this trilogy is not to be missed. Honestly. Bitterblue satisfyingly wraps up the series that started with Graceling, which was Katsa's story. Katsa shows up as a side character in this one, for this is the story of Bitterblue, the daughter of King Leck of Monsea, now Queen of Monsea and trying to repair her damaged kingdom. And if you read Book 2--Fire--you'll eventually learn over the course of this book how that story fits in with the rest of it.

Although there is certainly action in this book, it's not as pronounced as it is in the first two. It rewards having read the other books, through its revelation of facts and solution of little mysteries that were dangled tantalizingly in the other two volumes. It is overall much more of a story of mystery, intrigue, and coming of age than I remember the other two being. By the end, the puzzle pieces that constitute the world in which the books are set, begin to fit together in a satisfying way that ties all three books together.

Concerning Character: I JUST LOVE Cashore's main characters. Absolutely adore them. They are physically capable—Bitterblue goes to sword practice and wears knives and chafes at her dull queenly responsibilities—and they are clever and inquisitive. Bitterblue knows that something isn't right in her kingdom, even though King Leck is dead, and she sets out to discover what it is. In the process, she finds out how little she really knows about the lives of everyday people under her care. She doesn't like that, either, and she doesn't like how little her advisers are telling her about what's actually going on. Leck's legacy still lingers (how's that for alliteration??) and if she truly wants to be the Queen of Monsea, she's going to have to deal with that legacy and what it means for castle folk and everyday citizens alike. Fortunately, she's got familiar faces to help her along: Katsa, Po, Raffin, and their Council are working to make the world a better place, and Bitterblue is determined to do her part.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Fantasy books with strong female characters, set in worlds where women have the opportunity to be more than arm candy: Tamora Pierce fans would especially like these, I think, as well as fans of Kathleen Duey and Robin McKinley.

Themes & Things: Besides the themes I've already touched on—coming of age, meeting responsibility with bravery and openheartedness, the gift that is true friendship—there is also a strong thread of romance in this book. Bitterblue is eighteen, yes, but she is relatively inexperienced, a bit sheltered living in her castle despite her harsh childhood. She's a bit of a newbie to matters of the heart and of physical love, and how these differ from other types of relationships. Through the mysterious yet dashing ruffian Saf and his friends, she begins to learn more about the meaning of love and trust. And in fact, learning whom to trust is another theme in this book, because sometimes those closest to you are hiding something, and sometimes those you've just met are trustworthy, but as Queen you need to learn to figure out who's who and why they're hiding what they're hiding...

Review Copy Source: Kindle ebook, purchased.

You can find Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore online, or at an independent bookstore near you!


Anonymous said...

I read the first one in this series and loved it, but I haven't read the second two yet. Your ALL CAPS are encouraging me to run out and do so, although right now I'm in the midst of the Game of Thrones series, which is probably going to take me the next two months to finish.

The thing about adult books is that they totally slow me down.

Sarah Stevenson said...

I know what you mean. I actually try to use that to my advantage--I tend to read adult books when I'm behind on book reviews. :)