Saturday, February 20, 2016

Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Graceling Realm #3
First Published: 2012
Hardcover
Young Adult, High Fantasy
Rating:
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 . . .
Bitterblue is the long awaited sequel to Graceling and Fire... though I didn't really wait for it, having discovered Graceling about a month prior to Bitterblue's release. Hearing it starts off eight years after the events of Graceling and will feature Katsa & Po was all I really needed to know before I decided to forgo Fire and jump right into this one instead.

Bitterblue is a hard book to read and rate. It has political intrigue, action, romance, drama and delves into the mind of a madman. All those are adorned by beautiful words and stunning imagery. But unlike its processors, where I found all the elements on par with one another, here some of them fell flat. 

The best part of this book is probably the overall plot of exploring Leck's madness. Through various characters we truly get to see it in a way we didn't before; it's overwhelming and all consuming. It's brutal and dark. It's heartbreaking and for some bizarre reason utterly fascinating.

Is the madman really ever gone, when his effects carry on long after his death? Or is he even truly dead, when his name lives forever in the hearts and minds and those whom he destroyed and their loved ones?

We've always known Leck was evil and cruel, but now we grasp the full scale of it. The journey to figure this out is something we do alongside Bitterblue, who's searching for answers. None of them are things she wanted to hear, though all necessary to make her more than a queen by name only.

An instrumental part in opening Bitterblue's eyes to the lies and half-truth she's been fed is Saf, A graceling thief who knows far more about her country than she does. I would tell you more about him, but I honestly don't think I ever got to know him more than that.

He is also the romantic interest. Which is, incedentally, the most lacking element of this novel. In the first two books we had convincing and delicious slow-burn romances, but here it kind of springs at you out of nowhere and you have no actual idea why they're in love. 

The entire book I found myself wishing Bitterblue would get together with Gideon instead, who was such an amazing surprise! He captured my heart with his sweetness and the way he supported Bitterblue, making him a much better fit to her than Saf ever was. First time I ever wished for a love-triangle to present itself, I'll tell you that...

But, the worst part about this book was the ending--because there wasn't one. I'm alright with open-ended endings; I loved the way Graceling concluded. But Bitterblue's is more than just open-ended. It lacked conclusion and felt like a book that ended mid sentence, closing at the beginning of something huge. Something we spent the novel setting up.

It felt like a tv show that's been cancelled on short notice, leaving the heroes dangling at the beginning of something amazing but never actually getting there. It was simply unsatisfying in every way, leaving me with a mountain of unanswered questions and a the feeling there should at least be one extra book. I wish Cashore would write it.
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