Release Date: May 1, 2012
(Thank you to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: Dial
Eight 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.
1. (+) Bitterblue, the protagonist - The focus of this book is on how Bitterblue needs to be emotionally and mentally strong, unlike with Fire and Katsa where the focus was more on their special skills and they, as protagonists, needed to accept themselves for who they were... Bitterblue is a refreshingly strong protagonist who's not sword-wielding (well, only to some extent, that is) when most YA protagonists now are either the Bella type or the Katniss type. Bitterblue is her own, and she's dealing with the ghosts of the past, her father's legacy and the weight of her own ignorance. She's incredibly easy to sympathize with as well.
2. (+) World-building - Loved it! With the castle's mazes and Leck's strange rooms and portraits and Bitterblue's exploits into the city and more of the Graceling world shown and Monsea's customs, lost to history... Every little detail was just as great and easy to imagine as those in the previous Graceling Realm books.
3. (+/-) The Romance - I love Kristin Cashore's writing... And she really knows how to tell a steamy and long romantic story... But I have to say I'm feeling a teensy bit let-down. The romance was appropriate for the story - both characters stayed true to themselves and Cashore does have a way of making anyone seem charming in their own way - but it wasn't as hopeful as it was in Fire and Graceling. I sometimes found myself enjoying the banter/chats Bitterblue has with another male character more rather than those with the primary romantic interest. There was something missing here... I think I didn't feel their chemistry as much as I did for the other characters in her previous books.
4. (+) Cameos - I didn't like Giddon based on how he was in Graceling, but I really liked him here. And Po! Oh, Po--he really steals the show sometimes. Katsa, on the other hand, kind of bothered me with the way she was acting, but in general I really enjoyed the cameos.
5. (+) Themes/Character Development - Some of the best parts of all Kristin Cashore books are the themes she tackles and getting to see the protagonist's character developed. The loss, getting over the ignorance, the confusion, learning how to rule a kingdom, how to be the kind of person she needs to be -- all beautifully done.
6. (+) The Prologue - One of the best written scenes I've ever read and definitely the best (and most disturbing) scene of the entire book. If you don't have a copy of Bitterblue yet, you can read the prologue here.
7. (+) The Plot - One review that I had read before reading Bitterblue said that its plot was too convoluted for its own good, but I respectfully disagree. I've always enjoyed Cashore's plot twists, and she has plenty of them up her sleeve in this book too. One thing I will say is that the ciphers confused me when they came up, so I ignored/skipped them and continued reading.
8. (+) The Writing - It's Kristin Cashore. I wish I could write like she does.
9. (+/-) Pacing - I got quite a bit antsy waiting for things to pick up... but it is a pretty consistent pace throughout, so long as you're not bored by that.
10. (+) The Cover - I like that all the covers seem to match... but the UK ones are still the nicest.
Another great Kristin Cashore book, but I enjoyed reading Fire and Graceling more than I did Bitterblue. Still worth the wait though.