Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

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.

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine
The Readventurer

21 thoughts on “Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

  1. I’ve been hearing similar comments from a lot of people, which is the reason I haven’t run straight out to buy Bitterblue yet. As much as I’m aching to read it, I have to admit that I didn’t entirely love Fire and, given what I’ve heard about Bitterblue, am afraid that it will leave me even less enamored. Thanks for your review; I always enjoy seeing what you think about the books you review, since they are usually on my recently read/TBR list as well.

    • Thanks for the kind words! It’s always nice to find readers who share my tastes in books. You might not love this one if you weren’t a big of Fire. I really expected Bitterblue to be one of my favorite reads this year and it makes me sad that it didn’t happen. I still enjoyed reading it though, if I didn’t pick it up, I’ll always wonder what I’ll think of it.

  2. I feel exactly the same. It IS a brilliant book and miles above other books I’ve read, but when I compare it to her other books: Graceling and Fire, I can’t help but be left wanting some thing more, ya know?

    • I remember your review! And yes, I agree, it does seem like we felt the same way about this book. I wanted to love it but I didn’t think it was as brilliant as her other novels.

  3. I am fascinated by the different reactions to this! I liked it the best of the series–I thought the first part was better than the second, and liked that the romance wasn’t an all consuming sweeping-off-feet (off-feet-sweaping?) one. I wouldn’t have been able to believe feet sweaping offness, and the kind of naive crush romance on Bitterblue’s part felt much more realistic. I liked that she wasn’t Graced! I liked that she was young, and lonely, and confused, and trying to figure things out! I loved the setting. Of all the books, it’s the one I’m most likely to re-read.

    • Charlotte, that’s interesting! I think it’s nice to know what other people think of books even if we don’t always feel the same way about them. I also liked that Bitterblue wasn’t a Graceling. Like I said, I liked her character but I just wasn’t able to connect with her like I did with Katsa and Fire. Does that make sense? I’m glad I still read this one but I’m more likely to reread Graceling or Fire.

  4. I felt very much the same way. Part of me feels it’s a great book – it has excellent characterization and themes. I loved Bitterblue. But… I didn’t love the book. It was too slow and detailed, and I agree with you about the romance although I did kind of like how it ended.

    But, like you, I will read more by Kristin Cashore despite not enjoying this one as much as the other two!

    • Kristen, I remember chatting about Bitterblue with you on Twitter. It does look like we felt the same way about it. It’s a well-written novel but we just didn’t fall in love with it like we expected. It did drag on some parts and I felt like certain sections weren’t that significant to the story.

      Yep, really excited about her next novel! I heard that it’s going to be contemporary YA.

  5. Pingback: Review of Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books

  6. Aww, I’m sorry you didn’t love this one. I just started it this weekend. Crossing my fingers I will like it. My expectations have been low even before the mixed reviews so hopefully that will help.

    • Holly, I know you’ve been hesitant to start this because of the mixed reviews but based on your Goodreads status updates, it looks like you’re really enjoying this! I’m keeping my fingers crossed as well, hope you like this one even more than I did.

  7. Graceling is one of my favorite fantasy novel, I loved Katsa so much. I enjoyed Fire but Katsa is still my favorite heroine in this saga, I am hoping to read Bitterblue soon but if the romance is not very good I’ll probably be disappointed.

    • Ari! Always nice to get a comment from you. 😀 I think you should still read Bitterblue, especially since you loved Katsa because she appears in several scenes in this book. I enjoyed those scenes and of course, the ones with Po as well.

  8. I read Graceling ages ago so I’ll need to reread it before tackling Bitterblue but how disappointing! I’ll probably read Bitterblue eventually, but go in with more moderate expectations. I do love political intrigue so who knows! Maybe I’ll love this! Great review, Chachic. 🙂

    • Maggie, that would be a good idea. You don’t have to rush out and read this if you still plan to reread Graceling. Also, I don’t think you’d be disappointed if you lower your expectations. I do love political intrigue as well but I’m not a big fan of all the confusion in this book.

  9. You have no idea how happy I am (as bad as it soudns) to find someone felt the SAME EXACT way about this book! While I loved Graceling, thought Fire was okay, I expect to LOVE Bitterblue, and while I really liked it, I didn’y love it. The romance did feel half baked and yes, I know exactly what you mean by that someone who Bitterblue couldn’t like too ;). I love Kristin Cashore and I will read anything she writes, I just think for a 500+ page book, I expected to be full of more adventure and action…and less….discriptions!

    • I think several of us felt the same way about this book. I’ve been seeing several mixed reviews for it. Sad that we didn’t fall in love with it but yes, there really were some issues that kept us from loving it as much as her other books. You’re right, I felt like there were too many descriptions and the pacing was too slow. I’m still excited for Kristin Cashore’s next novel though! I hear it’s going to be contemporary YA.

  10. I felt much the same way about it. Though I wasn’t too disappointed in the romance. I would have been a bit happier if it hadn’t gone quite as far as it did, because he was never right for her. It felt like a puppy love romance, a growing-up romance, all along. And much as that’s not as much fun to read about, it is a bit more realistic than falling in love for life at 18, don’t you think? I do expect her to marry that “other character” some day, but am not sure how I feel about that. It’s definitely a good, welll-written book, but I don’t feel as passionate about it as the others.

    • Yeah, I got the feeling he was never right for her. And yes, you have a point that their romance is realistic for their age but I think I also got used to the idea that in medieval fantasy, most characters fall in love young. I wouldn’t have minded the romance if it was developed well but since I felt that it wasn’t, I think it would have been better if it wasn’t included in the story. In any case, I’m still glad I read the book to satisfy my curiosity.

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