Greetings one and all! I have to say, I am very excited about this review, partly because I really enjoyed this book, but mostly because reading it helped me accomplish one of my reading goals for the year. The goal in question – finish all the series that I start this year. I still have a whole backlog of series from previous years to rack up, but at least this one is done!
Let’s just take a quick second to admire the cover art on this one. Isn’t it beautiful! I’ve really loved the covers on this series, but this one is definitely my favorite.
Oh, and by the way, there will be spoilers in here for both Graceling and Bitterblue, although not for Fire. So read with caution if you haven’t read the books.
Bitterblue takes place eight years after Graceling and follows the story of – you guessed it – Bitterblue, the young Queen of Monsea. She became queen at the tender age of ten, after the events at the end of Graceling when her father, King Leck, was killed. Bitterblue has a tough situation. Her father was a Graceling, with the ability to control the minds of his subjects. He could make them do or think anything he wanted them too. Monsea has been crippled by what he had done and Bitterblue is still struggling to deal with the aftermath, even eight years later. Her advisers were all victims of Leck’s abuse and each of them has dealt with it in different ways, from drinking heavily to just shutting out the world when necessary.
What makes this book work is the characterization of Bitterblue. She is a very strong young woman who desperately wants to do something to fix what her father had done, even though she has no idea how to do that. She has been sheltered by her advisors, and because of this, really doesn’t know much about the reality of day to day life in her kingdom. She starts to sneak out at night, dressed as a commoner, to see what life is like on the streets. While on one of her trips, she meets two young thieves, Teddy and Saf. With their help, she slowly starts to piece together the truth of what life is like. There are a lot of people out there who are trying to destroy history, particularly the history of Leck’s reign. Books have been burned, people have been murdered – all for telling the truth about what had happened. And some people just seem like they’ve gone completely mad. This was another thing that I liked – how realistic the situations were. If a kingdom was trying to recover from the sort of abuse that Leck subjected them to, it would probably end up with problems like Monsea. This is what makes Bitterblue such a likeable character too – she truly cares about her people and wants to help them as much as she can.
Our old friends from Graceling, Katsa and Po, both turn up to help and it’s nice to see them again. I was glad that they didn’t just abandon Bitterblue on the throne when they set her up as queen eight years ago. Here’s something that’s a little strange though – there is no real villain. Sure, there are a couple of people who do some not-so-good things, but there’s no big bad guy that has to be stopped. In fact, the big bad guy, Leck, is already dead. It was an entirely different story structure, which I really liked. In the end, everything isn’t perfect. All the problems aren’t magically solved, but they are set on a course to be much better than they were before.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the ending of the book seemed to come too early. There were many chapters left after what I took to be the big climactic scene and it felt like it dragged on a little after that. I think I had similar feelings about both Graceling and Fire, so that might just be Cashore’s style. In any case, this book was a well written ending to a well written series. If you haven’t read them, do check them out. They are definitely worth the read.
Also, don’t forget to vote for the next part of Heritage! The poll for this week can be found here.