Published by Dial on May 1st 2012
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 . . .
May contain spoilers for GRACELING
While technically the third book in the Graceling Realms saga, BITTERBLUE is the only direct sequel to the first GRACELING book. It has been many years since I read these books, so I decided to do a reread in honor of the release of Kristin Cashore’s latest (but unrelated release) JANE UNLIMITED. These books have been in my top ten favorite series for years but as I’ve become more well read I’ve wanted to go back and see how a few of them have held up. I can say this this one is still among my favorites.
BITTERBLUE is from the POV of a relatively minorish character from GRACELING. At the time of the first book, Bitterblue was a child, and Katsa was the main character. Here, Bitterblue is now 18, and queen after the death of her father King Leck. This book is a much more cerebral story than GRACELING was. Where Katsa is very action focused, Bitterblue’s strength is her mind and her book focuses on the mystery and puzzles of her father’s (and subsequently her kingdom’s) past.
Because of the change from an actiony assassin book to a political mystery, I think BITTERBLUE is less popular than it’s predecessor. However, of the two books I think Bitterblue is stronger. This is clear just in how Katsa is portrayed in this book. Where she was such a big personality in GRACELING, here Katsa doesn’t get much page time, and I actually don’t mind as much as I did the first time I read it. Katsa isn’t the most likable character at times, and her brash nature gets a nice foil in Bitterblue who is much more sweet. Action is mixed with more well thought out plot, a sweeping backstory is written in to expand Leck’s character even after he is long dead. It’s like GRACELING was only the tip of this story’s iceberg and it seems shallow in comparison.
The mystery aspect of this book was superbly done. It is the foremost plot point on this story which the rest is wound around. While the romance in the story is fine and the action is good, the mystery is the back bone and keeps surprising you every time you think you have everything figured out.
The romance in this story is really just ok though, and the only thing that doesn’t hit the mark for me. Saf is just a whatever love interest for me. I don’t dislike him or anything but I’m not endeared by him and I don’t particularly care if he and Bitterblue get together. They work fine as friends, or as lovers and I can live without any romantic attachment between them. That’s not really a plus in a romance.
Of the three GRACELING Realm books, I’d say this is now my favorite, though I recommend reading the series in a particular order:
Though you will not be reading them chronologically this is the best way to read this series without spoiling yourself. I recommend this book for people who like a riveting mystery as a part of their fantasy expeirence.
What do you think of Bitterblue? Share your thoughts in the comments.
From my shelf to yours,