I have had Bitterblue on preorder for about as long as was possible, but when I was offered the chance to read and review this one a few weeks early, I jumped at the chance. Receiving this book in the mail was like Christmas as a kid. I jumped up and down and squealed and shook it and then ripped it open with glee, trying to find a person in the office who would understand how exciting it was to have a Bitterblue galley. (Alas, I couldn’t find anyone. So I made my friend read the entire series. She’s onto Bitterblue now.)
I started reading it immediately, desperate to be back in Katsa and Bitterblue’s world. I liked Fire, but I adored Katsa and Po and Bitterblue. I missed their world. Fortunately, Bitterblue was everything I wanted it to be. If you haven’t read Graceling or Fire, I recommend you stop reading now, because I won’t be able to avoid some spoilers.
Bitterblue takes place nine years after Katsa and Po rescue Princess Bitterblue from her evil Graced father, King Leck. Bitterblue is the queen, still trying to untangle her kingdom and her court from the snare of Leck’s lies. She is frustrated by her limits as a queen. Much of what Leck did while he was king is still a mystery to her and she believes that people are still lying to her about her father. She doesn’t trust her court, especially after she begins sneaking out at night, disguised, to listen to the stories her citizens tell at night. While listening to the story, she befriends two thieves who teach her more about Monsea than any of her advisers.
When I wrote my review for Graceling, I listed all the many reasons I had to love it. Since I loved Bitterblue almost as much, I think I’ll do the same thing here.
1) Bitterblue! – Bitterblue is a different heroine from Katsa. She’s not Graced, though she is in a position of power. Like Katsa, she’s not always sure of herself, or her abilities as a ruler. She breaks the rules, gets frustrated, but she tries to do the right thing. She is a regular girl thrown into an extraordinary situation.
2) It’s not an adventure novel, it’s a novel about politics, recovery, and healing. There is a lot of adventure in Bitterblue, but unlike Graceling, I would not call Bitterblue an adventure novel. This story is very much about power, the abuse of power, and the healing that has to take place after such an abuse has taken place. Leck is an unimaginable monster and when it is revealed what he did, it’s horrific. Most of Bitterblue’s staff, Bitterblue herself, and the entire country are still dealing with what they experienced under Leck.
3) Raffin and Bann! I loved the relationship that was hinted at between Raffin and Bann in Graceling. In Bitterblue all our suspicions are confirmed and the relationship between the two men is out in the open. This made me so happy!
4) Giddon! I just reread Graceling and I had forgotten how much of an ass Giddon really was. There’s really not another word for it. In Bitterblue, he’s put nine years between his infatuation with Katsa and his hatred for Po, and he’s grown up for it. I loved seeing that transition.
5) The realism. There is a way that you want this novel to end, but it just can’t end that way. It wouldn’t make sense for the characters and it wouldn’t make sense for the story. You feel everything that Bitterblue feels. The story can sometimes get tedious while Bitterblue works out the reality of Leck’s horrors, but it should be. You feel Bitterblue’s frustration and her helplessness. It’s never easy and I would have been disappointed if it were.
6) It’s stunning. I only found this out once my preordered copy came in the mail, but I have one piece of advice: spring for the hardcover. I’m sure the paperback will be lovely, but the hardcover has such a beautiful cover jacket and there are beautiful drawings throughout the novel. A big part of the novel are ciphers and these are drawn throughout the story.
7) This post from Kristin Cashore. I know I can’t seriously complain that Cashore is not coming here, because everyone comes here, but I am still sad that I won’t get to go to one of her readings. I would have loved to meet her. Hopefully she’ll do a reading here soon!
I really hope this isn’t the last we see of the Graceling world or the last we see of Katsa and Po and Bitterblue. How about a novel about Raffin and Bann, eh Kristin Cashore? Please?
GIVEAWAY: Penguin has generously offered the coolest of giveaways. They partnered with an artist on Etsy to bring you this very cool tote bag. I think it’s pretty great that Penguin has partnered with Fencing and Archery to bring you something so unique. I am already very jealous of the person who wins! One winner will receive this tote bag and a copy of Bitterblue. In fact, all you need to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment. I’ll randomly choose a winner next Tuesday. Please be sure to leave a valid email address, either in the comment form or in the body of your email, so I can get in touch with you if you win.
(Giveaway is open to US addresses only.)