Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore is one of my most anticipated titles in 2012. I’ve been waiting for YEARS for Bitterblue to be published, ever since I found out that Graceling will have a sequel. I loved both Graceling and Fire so I had high hopes that I’d feel the same way about their companion novel. On the week that it was released, I kept dropping by local bookstores to ask if they already have a copy of Bitterblue. Luckily, I found a copy soon enough and got even more excited when I discovered that there are beautiful illustrations inside the book. Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read Graceling! Read Kristin Cashore’s first novel before picking up this one.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
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.
Going in, I knew that Bitterblue would be different from Kristin Cashore’s other heroines, Katsa and Fire. She’s not Graced with fighting and she doesn’t have mind reading abilities. What Bitterblue has is a horrific past care of her psychotic father, truly a creepy villain. There’s a lot of confusion in the kingdom of Monsea because of the mind-altering ways of its previous monarch. I found the first few chapters (maybe even the first half) of the book a bit slow, which I guess is a given because Bitterblue is still trying to work through the mess left by her father. I understood that and I really felt that the writing in this book is even better than the author’s previous work, which is why it pains me to say that I didn’t love Bitterblue as much as I expected. It’s hard to explain, really, because I admired Bitterblue’s character. I think she’s developed well throughout the course of the novel – she learns how to stand up to her advisors and her friends. She eventually comes out of her shell (or should I say her palace) and learns so many truths that have been kept from her for her protection. I guess the pacing was a factor but I think it was mostly because I wasn’t able to connect with Bitterblue and that prevented me from wholeheartedly enjoying her story.
I think I have to mention the romance and my problems with it. I was disappointed because I LOVED the romance in both Graceling and Fire. However, I didn’t feel the same way about the romance in this book. I felt like it would have been better if there had been no love interest for Bitterblue. It’s still a slow burn romance, with a lot of tension between the two characters, but I felt like it was half-baked. Does that make sense? The relationship didn’t have the depth that I was looking for and to be honest, I kind of felt like Bitterblue would have been better off with a different leading man (am I the only one who noticed that there was something between her and a certain someone she can’t lie to?) Kristin Cashore is still an auto-buy author for me – I really liked seeing how characters from her other novels are doing and I think she did a great job of tying everything together in this installment. As always, it’s just a matter of personal taste and I can never predict how I’ll feel about a novel until I read it – which is why I’m still recommending Bitterblue to fans of YA epic fantasy and those who like their novels with a healthy dose of political intrigue. It’s a well-written novel, it just wasn’t as brilliantly amazing as I wanted it to be.