Bitterblue (Seven Kingdoms Trilogy #3)FeaturedHot
The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and FireEight 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.
Bitterblue is now 18 and trying to reclaim the kingdom her father Leck destroyed. She wants to be a fair ruler, unlike her father, and understand the workings of her kingdom so that she can help the people. She starts to sneak out at night to see what is really going on, and meets Saf and Teddy, printers and outlaws who are bent on stealing back things that were taken under Leck's rule. Katso and Po are helping Bitterblue with her work, as are a variety of advisors, including Death (pronounced Deeth), the librarian who has the Grace of reading everything superfast and remembering it all. This comes in handy when he tries to recreate all of the books that Leck destroyed, and also when Bitterblue unearths her father's disturbing journals, that turn out to be not only in ciphers (like the embroidery that her beleaguered mother left) but in another language entirely. Through Saf, Bitterblue comes to understand how poorly her kingdom is run, but also runs into some danger. None of the people she knows seem to be who they say they are, and she uncovers secrets that make her allies her enemies and vice versa.
This book stood on its own as the story of Bitterblue and the kingdom of Monsea, and if I remembered more about the other two, I would have appreciated the inclusion of Katsa and Po, and well as Fire's appearance later in the book. These still remind me very strongly of Pierce's Alanna books.
Don't read further if you want to be completely unspoiled!
Bitterblue is the novel I have been anticipating most this year (and for the past three years), so I threw myself a mini parade when I learned I would get to read it early. It was worth the wait.
Kristin Cashore does something different with this novel; both FIRE and GRACELING are written from the perspective of a Graced character, someone with a special skill that sets them apart. Bitterblue is not Graced, although the majority of the people in her service are. After being so interested in these special talents, it was interesting for me to consider what it would be like to try to rule a kingdom full of Graced citizens. Short answer: it's difficult. Bitterblue is confined to the castle for most of the book, which is a change from the previous novels which change location frequently. At times, it is frustrating to wait for the Gracelings to go off on adventures and make the discoveries on Bitterblue's behalf. I wonder if Cashore did this intentionally, to make the reader empathize with the protagonist. A few of these scenes could have been edited out, without doing any damage to the book, particularly ones that lead to a reveal that anyone who has read FIRE already knows.
Fans of the series will be happy to encounter favorites like Katsa, Po, Giddon, and Fire in this novel. There's never enough Po for me! It also continues the tradition that people who love each other might not necessarily always be together. Cashore's work touches on modern topics like birth control and same-sex relationships and sets them in a fantasy world, perhaps making them easier to talk about for young readers who have questions.
Cashore has said that she has ideas for a fourth book in this series, which comes as a relief to me. This is a world where I want to continue to immerse myself. Hopefully, I won't have to wait three years before I can do it again.
Fans of the series will be excited to see favorite characters appear.
The writing in Bitterblue is absolutely gorgeous. That has always been one of my favorite things about her books - her beautiful prose and her detailed world. The world that was established in Graceling has been built upon, and I just loved it. It's a world that I could happily read book after book in, and never tire of it. The concept of it Graces just fascinates me.
Bitterblue was a character that I liked in Graceling, and I loved seeing how she'd changed since we last saw her. Bitterblue was strong, had spunk, and an curiosity that couldn't be smothered. I loved the other characters met in Graceling who make appearances in Bitterblue have really grown as well. My biggest issue with Graceling was some characteristics about Katsa, but by this point in the story, she has matured and moved on. Kristin Cashore always has an amazing boy in her books, and while I don't know if Saf has quite lived up to my love for Brigan and Po, he comes pretty darn close. Saf was such a complex character and he was not going to let anyone tell him what to do.
Bitterblue weaves a tale that was so complicated and intense. There was this constant sense of intrigue as I was reading. The plot was ever-building, and the different storylines of the book began to intersect. I never knew what Kristin Cashore was going to throw at readers next. Yet, there were also so many moments when I had to step back and just admire the little things going on, like the compassion between characters. The relationships between the characters are all so deep and learning all their back was one of the best parts of the book. The ending was phenomenal - the thought had crossed my mind at several points throughout the book, but I was not sure what Cashore would do about that event. I loved how she tied up the story, it was perfect: full of hope.
I did not want this book to end. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore was simply a masterpiece, and was everything I had hoped for and more in the years of waiting since Fire. Kristin Cashore is simply a master of fantasy, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.
Relate to the first two books without confusing new readers
READ IT AND LOVE IT AND BUY IT!!!
Just to clarify, the rating is between 4 stars to 4.5 stars, just not quite 5 stars yet, I'll explain in my review why :)
Firstly, I just have to express my love for the cover: It is AMAZING!!! I LOVE THE COVER!!! Super super adorable cover :) My favourite one of the Graceling Realm.
It's absolutely fabulous to dive back into the Graceling Realm with Bitterblue.Graceling is one of my favourite, favourite books. I really liked the characters and scenes constructed by Kritin Cashore. Bitterblue is a book which I didn't want to rush through, not because it's boring (ABSOLUTELY NOT!) but because it contains so much that I didn't want to miss anything, and wanted to take it all in. So it did take me about 5 days to finally finish the whole book.
It's great to re-visit so many 'old friends' such as Katsa, Po, Raffin, Giddon etc... and most of of: Bitterblue! This book is told from Bitterblue's persective even though it's written in third-person perspective. Set in 8 years after Graceling, you see a lot more about Bitterblue and the Monsea Kingdom.
The writing was never a minute disappointing, which is another reason why I really enjoyed this book. The author also makes the readers think when reading it by using a lot so puzzles, ciphers and riddles. (I know right, you actually have to think! XP) The ciphers were awesome, I wish I know how to write in ciphers and decode them :D
The plot was interesting and quite different, it had me until after the last sentence in the book.
But this innovative plot and the many inferences/riddles used in the book can get a bit confusing at times. I understand that the central character Bitterblue was confused, so that may attribute to the reader's confusion. But sometime I just felt so fustrated at the confusion that I felt let it down a bit as a whole.
I saw many people's reviews saying that the book is disappointing, contrarily, I didn't share that opinion. What I did think is: it is very unsatisfying! And why is that? Because there are still soooooo many loose ends at the end of this story! The book is VERY unfinished. Frustratingly so. I was reading the last page and felt like: "That's it?! Is she going to write another book? I can't even contact her and ask!"
Kristin Cashore, you HAVE TO WRITE ANOTHER BOOK continuing the Graceling story (at least Bitterblue's story). It's so unfinished that it's almost a cliffhanger. (But that just might be my opinion?) There better be a third book coming! If there is no 3rd book, the rating might be even lower just because how undone it felt like to me at the end.
All in all, I really liked this book and I loved all the characters. My favourite character is by far still Po. Po is awesome in this book, very adorable and likable. I can go on forever talking about Po. We don't see too much of Katsa but she is still the way I want her to be. Two new character I really come to love is Saf and Teddy. Saf is such a different character that I felt for him somehow, and Teddy is just sweet. Bitterblue really has grown up, I wish her all the best with her future and Kingdom.
I know others have said that that you don't need to read Graceling and Fire before reading this book, and it's true. Cashore does an admirable job of making sure all three books can stand alone. However, I may throw around spoilers for the first two books (not Bitterblue, I promise) with breathtakingly reckless abandon, so I suggest that all Cashore newbies stop reading until you've been able to read the first two books. Okay?
Now that that business is taken care of... This book. Oh my gosh, this book. I was so justified for making it my first Wishlist Wednesday post. I scarfed down all 500+ pages in less than three days (which prompted this post on book binges). I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed Cashore's world. How much I loved Bitterblue. How much I despised Leck.
Bitterblue has grown up. She's eighteen now, queen and commander of Monsea. Only, as happens with most royalty, her power is curtailed. Kept high in a tower and drowned in floods of paperwork by her well-meaning advisors, men she has trusted from childhood, Bitterblue knows very little about her country or even herself.
Prompted by her curiosity, she begins to wake up, to notice things she hasn't before. Why is the east side of the city in shambles but freshly painted? Why can't she remember things from her childhood? What did Leck do in his secret rooms? Why are there strange yet beautifully life-like sculptures all over the castle? Why is her palace filled with impractical glass ceilings and courtyards that flood when it rains?
Add to that more problems, such as Bitterblue's penchant for running into two men, one of whom is Graced and exceedingly reckless and has a penchant for inexplicably stealing gargoyles from her palace. Oh, and her friends in the Council keep overthrowing neighboring monarchies and they're using her palace as a base, which is a little... uncomfortable. Also, she's pretty sure her four advisors, men she trusts absolutely, are hiding something from her. Or at least one of them is, because there are pieces she just can't fit together, and her citizens keep turning up dead.
There are so many questions in this book that it made my head ache, but they were utterly vital questions to Bitterblue and therefore to us. The questions range from seemingly innocuous to critically important in nature, but all (to me) were tinged with an ominous foreboding. They all led back to Leck - creepy, psychopathic, demented, charming Leck. Though by the start of the book Leck had been dead for eight years, he was so very alive on every page.
Everything you've read about this book being darker, more mature, more intense... so totally true. I'm going to come out and say it right now - this is NOT a book I would freely recommend to just anyone.
Leck permeates every fiber and the book revolves around Bitterblue discovering the past - her past, her country's past, her people's past. Boy, is it a messed up past. There are atrocities there that, while not described in graphic detail, still made me squirm and flinch.
This is not a fun book.
Don't get me wrong, there are fun moments. Bitterblue isn't completely alone. She has her two thief friends, Teddy and Saf, and the Council is in Monsea for much of her adventure. I'd forgotten how much I adored Katsa and Po until they were suddenly in Monsea, squabbling and kissing and loving like an old married couple. I even developed a new fondness for stuffy old Giddon. Oh, and Cashore brings in a new character names Death (supposedly pronounced "Deeth") who absolutely rocks my socks. Librarians rule!
But no one can escape tragedy in this book. Po continues to struggle with the loss of his sight and the terrible burden of his Grace. Katsa balances her worries for Bitterblue and her terror over what might happen if Po is found out. And everyone else goes through a nausea-inducing dive into the past with Bitterblue that threatens to tear the entire country apart at the seams.
This book hurt my head. It really did. Anyone who's read Tamora Pierce's Provost's Dog Trilogy (known to many as the Beka Cooper Series) knows what I'm talking about. There are so many buried leads, so many dead ends, so many frustrating turns that I felt like I was lost in Leck's maze. But it was worth it, horrific as the truth was in the end. I needed to know, just as Bitterblue needed to know, and it was a relief to know that the truth was so horrible that it warranted all of the elaborate measures that went into trying to destroy it.
I think, in the end, the most potent aspect of the entire tragedy was that, except for one dead and reviled king, there was no cackling bad guy. Other than Leck, there were only two people in the book that I truly and deeply despised, and that was because they were easy to hate. They were selfish and evil just because they could be. Anyone else had a reason. Everyone had the potential to be both villain and victim, which is frightening to the extreme.
So if you're up for that kind of ride - and I mean really, really up for it - then pick up Bitterblue. But I won't blame you if you don't.
Points Added For: Masterful writing, Bitterblue's transformation from troubled girl to a queen who gets stuff done, Giddon (he's lovable now), Death (my favorite character by far), the malevolent presence of Leck, some really awesome new Graces (Hava? The bomb!), twists galore (major and minor), PAGE 500!!!! Oh my gosh, pg. 500 made me so happy.
Points Subtracted For: A romance that I was rooting against (though maybe that's what Cashore wished all along...), a minor resolution regarding a certain bad guy that made me sad, Danzhol's Grace (nightmare fodder for a year there, people), making me depressed.
Good For Fans Of: Tamora Pierce (particularly The Provost's Dog Trilogy), the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. [Note: All three are in my can't-live-without list. Just saying.]
Notes For Parents: Some language and adult themes, including torture, rape, murder, mind control, experiments of the Josef Mengele kind, suicide, PTSD. Also, fade-to-black sex (nothing graphic; see previous treatment in Graceling) and multiple homosexual relationships, some more pointed than others. Oh, and drinking. There's drinking, too (although I think the adult themes might be of greater concern, y'know?)
Cashore is an absolute genius at crafting her stories into complex and layered puzzles. Each chapter brought about as many questions as it answered, adding to the ever-expanding and convoluted tale of Bitterblue, her kingdom and her father's legacy. The way with which Cashore effortlessly laid out the pieces of her puzzle, without revealing her ultimate strategy until the very last moment, kept me eagerly on the edge of my seat as I tried to put together the pieces she had strategically leaked.
Bitterblue is a wonderfully frustrating heroine. A truthseeker, she knows the best way to have her questions answered is to put in the work herself - through asking the tough questions, reading everything that might be of importance and making a point to venture into her kingdom to see Leck's destruction for herself. I only wish she had pushed her advisor's as to the state of her kingdom, and what they were doing to resolve its issues. Living in fear of them finding out her secret - that she snuck out at night to mingle with the commoners - had her constantly holding her tongue when she should have spoken up! But her loyalty to her queendom trumped any and all frustration her hesitations might have caused in me. Bound and determined to repair the damage Leck's rule had caused, by whatever means necessary, I admired Bitterblue's tenacity and courage in the face of so many obstacles.
I also love how Cashore has created the perfect villain in Leck. Dead eight years, his influence is almost as powerful and deep-rooted as when he was living. It's in the flicker of pain behind someone's eyes at the mention of his name or the moments of catatonia when someone is asked about an experience during his reign. It's in the fear he has instilled in every Monsean heart at the thought of reliving the experience of being mind-raped. It's in the wanting of truth, but the fear of what that truth will bring. His endless pursuit of certain ideals, his psychotic experiments in his "hospital" and his treatment of those who went missing are things that will haunt me, long after Bitterblue has collected dust on my shelf.
I absolutely loved seeing characters from both Graceling and Fire (and how well Bitterblue tied the three stories together!), as well as the inclusion of some new characters - namely, Saf. The romance between Bitterblue and Saf was of the slow-burning variety, and definitely ventured into the land of the forbidden. True to Cashore fashion though, the romance was a side-story which burned deep in my heart but never took centre stage in the plot. I loved how feisty Saf was with Bitterblue, and how she was able to be more of a person (rather then a queen) with him. In the end, he broke my heart, but I - like Bitterblue - always knew what his ultimate decision would be.
There's so much more I could say - Katsa and Po! - but I fear I'll become spoilery. I waited with bated breath for Bitterblue's release, and I couldn't be more pleased. It was everything I was hoping for, and more. The characters came alive across the pages, Bitterblue's kingdom with it's three bridges danced across my vision every time I closed my eyes and the suspense was deliciously thick and heavy.
At first I didn't like the writing style, but that changed as the book progressed. I learnt that having the book written this way made you wonder what Bitterblue was thinking, and it gave you a challenge, to guess what was coming next. As well as this, you could see more on what was happening outside Bitterblue's mind.
I loved all the characters, every single one of them. But not what they did, just the way the author wrote it. I liked Saf quite a bit, but I didn't really get why something that happened did happen. I only hope that things would change, in the future for them.
I loved the idea of this book being about solving what has happened in the past. I loved this idea because many books are about trying to forget the past, and not dig deeper into it. I found this a stunning idea that I couldn't get enough of. I also liked the idea of the Queen sneaking outside her castle, not many royals would do that, as they think themselves to high to do such a thing.
I loved this book with all my heart, and I can only hope that Kristin Cashore will write another book set in this kingdom, or just another new series entirely, so we can see if she can make up a new world that is just as good.
It's a story about Queen Bitterblue, who came abruptly to her throne at age 10. She is now 18 and still trying to deal with the toxic fallout of her father's reign. Her father Leck was a twisted, evil, sociopath who could literally convince anyone of anything. That pain was pleasure. That love was pity. Anything, and he used this power to try to rebuild his fantasy world, without, of course, counting the cost to anyone. Hundreds died.
Her advisors have convinced Bitterblue that the only way for the kingdom to get past this horror is to issue a blanket amnesty for everything that happened in Leck's time, and try to forget it, as a country.
The problem is that the country can't forget, and the people who committed atrocities are terrified that the information will come out, and the people who were victims can't just get over it without acknowledgement. Bitterblue is helped by more experienced characters from the previous books, but mostly, she is successful because of her dogged determination to do the right thing, and her skills at making friends. She has a whopping case of imposter syndrome, which is understandable. "They understood the world and how to mold it. If she could keep them near, one day she'd wake up and discover that she'd become strong that way too." A budding monarch could do worse.
She is forced to understand that the damage done to the country and the people can't be ignored out of existence, and the most important person in the kingdom may be the librarian. Eventually, through heartbreak and peril, she emerges with a new understanding of her own privilege and the perils of being isolated from many viewpoints.
In the end, she decides that education and knowledge preservation are important, and then she founds the first royal institute of peace and reconciliation. That's not quite what it's called, but the concept is the same. It's hard to work together as a country if no one has ever acknowledged that they were the perpetrators and/or the victims. I think about Rwanda, and Serbia, and South Africa, and I think about how Leck could make good people do terrible things. I think about the way so few genocidal outbursts involve people making a deliberate decision to massacre their neighbors, but something flips in their mind and a voice comes on the radio and it's all machetes and fear and death.
My favorite quote from this book: "Bacon improved things dramatically." Because no matter how terrible your night has been, the addition of calories and protein will probably help you deal with it. My favorite Grace is the ability to direct someone else's dreams.
Read if: You are interested in the aftermath of bad government, you love ciphers and hidden languages and spunky queens.
Skip if: You are looking for something totally escapist. You have issues with people not taking responsibility for your actions. You can't read about past torture.