Sunday, February 12, 2012
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore is one of this spring's most-anticipated YA releases. I expected to be reading it in May, with everyone else . . . but then a friend sent me an advance review copy, courtesy of the publisher. I'll avoid including Bitterblue spoilers in this review, but I can't guarantee that there won't be spoilers for Cashore's earlier books, Graceling and Fire.
Bitterblue's father, King Leck of Monsea, was as cruel and manipulative a man as you could imagine. Graced with the ability to make people believe anything he said, Leck's reign of terror left his entire country scarred and traumatized long after his death. Now, as a young queen, Bitterblue is trying to heal her country . . . but it isn't easy. Even nine years after Leck's death, Bitterblue's administration is haunted by the repercussions of the things Leck did -- and forced other people to do. When Bitterblue leaves the castle one night to travel around the city incognito, she learns that, despite her good intentions, her people are still struggling for survival. Many are illiterate, buildings in some districts are crumbling, and people who try to right the wrongs left over from Leck's rule are being silenced -- permanently. How can Bitterblue get to the bottom of what's happening in her kingdom, without adding to the turmoil caused by her late father's rule?
In Bitterblue, Cashore brings together elements from both Graceling and Fire. If you're eagerly anticipating the release of this book, it would not hurt to reread both of those earlier books, as characters and events from them are referenced frequently. I was glad I had recently reread Graceling, and was wishing I had done the same with Fire -- though I think Bitterblue could probably be enjoyed by readers who have not yet read either. Bitterblue is a fairly hefty tome, coming in at well over 500 pages, but I was enjoying being caught up in the story so much that, if there were pacing problems, I certainly didn't notice them. I find Bitterblue to be a much easier character to relate to than either Katsa or Fire, and the cast of secondary characters, both new and familiar, were well-developed and multifaceted. The setting is less spectacular -- the Seven Kingdoms world has a generally medieval feel, albeit with some industrial-age additions and a thoroughly modern value system -- but the characters and plot more than make up for it. All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Fans of the series will not be disappointed, and new members will be added to their ranks after reading this book.
(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)