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Young Adult Fiction 896
Fabulous Continuation of the Series!
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What I Liked: This fifth book in the Graceling Realm series starts seven weeks after the events in Winterkeep, where we came to know a little about Queen Bitterblue’s half-sister, Hava. We know that Hava’s grace is the ability to blend into her surroundings and that came in handy growing up when her mother kept her existence a secret from everyone, including her sadistic father, King Leck. He killed her mother when she was eight years old and she led an existence fending for herself until Bitterblue learned of her and welcomed her into her life as her spy and secret sister.
Hava is a fascinating personality that is both innocent and extremely knowledgeable of the depravities the world offers. Staying hidden means she has spied her whole life on others interacting and living while never learning how to do it herself. Now at twenty-one years old and living in a confined space where people see her, she is slowly starting to learn who she is. Most don’t know her background so they don’t understand her reactions which makes her a magnet to them.
Her socially awkward encounters with the other crew are endearing and make this chunky book hard to put down. She has never had a friend before and getting a nickname from the captain, having the crew take her interest seriously and teach her about running the ship, and engaging her in the conversation has her constantly questioning their motives and their intent. Then there is Linny. He is kind to her and after a while, she realizes she thinks he is handsome. They have a slow friendship and he gives her the space and time she needs to learn how to open up and trust him. The parts where they are interacting were always the parts I couldn’t put down.
Much of this book takes place in Hava’s head as she is growing and learning about how she feels and thinks about her surroundings. The ship wrecks in the polar north and the book becomes a story of survival. She is now part of a close-knit unit that is always together and must trust and rely on each other to survive. The situation is challenging and will stretch everyone to the edges of their endurance mentally, physically, and emotionally. For a person like Hava who only knows the outlines of other people’s lives, having them next to her and every action exposed makes her thrust into humanity in a very visceral way. Being in Hava’s head as the reader allows us a front-row seat in seeing her mature and her edges filled in from a periphery character in Bitterblue’s story to her own unique person.
The role the blue foxes filled in the story at first seems a fun and whimsical decision. However, the plot keeps coming back to Hope and her babies. In a very real way, the babies allow the others to endure their northern ordeal because they bring joy and the responsibility to survive in a desperate landscape. They bring the senses to life as I can picture how their coats smelled unwashed as they bundled the un potty-trained babies in their coats for weeks. It allowed Hava to show her growing maturity to share the care of the kits and her empathy with others when she knew care of the kits would help others endure their pain. Then there is the subplot of why Hope was stolen and their work to unravel her past self that was engrossing.
I enjoyed that the story didn’t end with their emergence into civilization. We were with Hava every step of the way and could appreciate her difficulty as her group starts splitting apart. Her feelings of being overwhelmed when she is seen by everyone and the world isn’t just stark white and cold but colors and noise. How she returns to her life so changed that she needs to explore how to be back at the castle. Hava is like a caterpillar that is emerging from her cocoon of trauma to learn how to be an adult.
Final Verdict: I could keep going on how much I enjoyed the book. However, I think it is really telling that I read this 602-page book in 24 hours. Hava evolved from a periphery character to a fully fleshed person that now takes up residence in a corner of my heart. This book took the time and care for us to see her evolution and it was wonderful.
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