This is the third book in the Seven Kingdoms trilogy. Although this review will contain no spoilers from Bitterblue by talking about the plot there may be unintentional spoilers from the first two books (Graceling and Fire) in the series.
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Release Date: 1st May 2012
Genre: Fantasy, Crossover, Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars
"Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck's death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck's reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea's past has become shrouded in mystery, and it's only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle - curious, disguised and alone - to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past. Whatever that past holds. Two thieves, who have sworn only to 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, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart..."
Fans of Kristin Cashore’s bestsellers Graceling and Fire have been waiting for this much anticipated companion novel for years. Bitterblue has been one of my most anticipated reads for the longest time and after such a long torturous wait I had only the highest expectations, so did it meet those expectations? Eh, not as much as I hoped, but expectations aside it was still a good read.
My main beef with Bitterblue is that I was expecting more of a plot. With King Leck being dead for a good eight years now as much as I love to hate Leck and his twisted little mind I was really looking for Bitterblue to move away from that storyline but instead Leck’s ghost and terrifying grip he had over Monsea reins on and whilst that’s understandable after the horrors he put his people through it didn’t really do anything for me plot wise as it felt very much like we were covering old ground without the story moving forward. Bitterblue is a huge book coming in at five hundred and thirty nine pages and because the book is very character driven there where sections that although were great for character development didn’t really move the plot along and so I’d find myself getting bored at times. Some sections certainly could have been edited down and I found the book to be overly long and lagging in places. The revelations at the end regarding Leck’s secrets didn’t offer much in way of plot development and I felt didn’t add anything new to the story from what we already knew at the beginning. The revelations of Leck’s past seemed to be for Bitterblue’s own personal growth to become the queen she needs to be and nothing more.
That being said I could never not like this book. I fell in love with this world and these characters long ago and nothing was ever going to change that. What I loved most about this book was that it felt like I was catching up with old friends. Characters that we got to know and love in both Graceling and Fire have a part to play in this book and although Bitterblue is a companion novel and not a direct sequel to either book I would recommend reading Graceling and Fire first for the ultimate experience and a better understanding of the world and the events of the past. Along with all of our old favourites there are new characters to get to know and love too particularly Teddy, Death and Hava my personal favourites. Whilst all of our much loved characters return the most interaction we had (Bitterblue aside) was with Prince Po who is very much a main character in this book. Po has always been my favourite character in the series and I grew to love him even more in Bitterblue. In a way we get to know Bitterblue all over again too this time as a queen and young woman rather than the little girl we met in Graceling. As always the characters are warm, vibrant and fully visualised her characters are one of Kristin Cashore’s strongest attributes as a writer and I loved being able to catch up with them.
My only other complaint about the book is Bitterblue’s love interest Sapphire whilst nice enough he didn’t really stand out to me as this great love interest and was by far overshadowed by Po, a worthy book hero, and even Giddon whose relationship with Bitterblue although not romantic I much preferred over hers and Sapphire’s. Don’t get me wrong Sapphire was nice just a little ordinary and personally I felt that Bitterblue could do better.
That being said I enjoyed everything else about this book it was brilliantly written and full of characters that you fall in love with and although the plot was slower than what I was expecting and felt a little bit undeveloped for my tastes especially compared to my favourite of the series Graceling it was an interesting read never the less with ciphers, old journals and family secrets to boot. Although Bitterblue wasn’t quite the amazing book I was expecting it is still a worthy read for fans of the series.
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