Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Things to know up front...
Warning: this review WILL contain spoilers for the two previous books in the series, Graceling and Fire, but I'll try to keep them to a minimum
Recommended to: fantasy lovers, fans of the series
Setting: Monsea (Graceling Realm)
- One extremely glossed over sex scene. Other than that, all other sexual content is limited to subtle allusions to the characters' sex lives.
- Quite a bit of violence, but it's pretty mild. At least two characters are stabbed, some characters commit suicide, murder is mentioned, shops are burnt to the ground, etc. Rape and torture also plays a huge part in many of the characters' backgrounds.
- No drug use, except a form of birth control.
- Moderate number of mild swear words; "ass" is probably the most common example.
- Overall, there's nothing too extreme; ages 13 & up will be absolutely fine.
Bitterblue follows--you guessed it--Queen Bitterblue, daughter of the sadistic King Leck of Monsea, as she fights against the chaos and confusion that still remains eight years after her father's death. Surrounded by men and women that can't seem to answer any of the questions that she has, the story takes off when Bitterblue sneaks into her city to find some truths of her own, befriending a handsome Graceling named Saf along the way. Through Saf and his friends, Bitterblue is able to see the corruption and mysterious phenomena in her kingdom, but before she can solve any of her kingdom's problems, she must first solve the mystery that is King Leck's lasting effect on her castle. Yet when even her most trusted advisors are concealing King Leck's secrets, can Bitterblue solve anything at all?
For starters, I would like to give Kristin Cashore an imaginary high five for managing to complete an extremely engrossing series that I'm sure will take its place beside The Hunger Games in the future! However, with that being said, I also felt that Bitterblue was the weakest of the trilogy, even though it seemed for awhile that it was going to be the strongest.
I was led to believe this by the first extremely promising two-thirds of the book, which was packed with mystery and intrigue, romantic tension, and action--pretty much all of the cliches that you could possibly want in a book...too bad that it ended. The fact of the matter is that Bitterblue is just too long and grows tired after awhile. The plot and subplots are so complicated and give the impression that they will all come together beautifully, but it never feels like they do. Again, Cashore gives us that underwhelming climax and drawn-out resolution, which she could get away with in the previous books, but is an absolute killer with all of the subplots in Bitterblue. Way too many things were resolved at separate times and felt too random to be satisfying.
I'm also lodging a small complaint that I often mixed up characters, but I suppose that it's my fault that I took so long to realize that there's a character index in the back.
Otherwise, I enjoyed Bitterblue. It seemed to me that Cashore managed to explore several different alleyways in this particular book, ranging from first love to psychological illness. She also threw in several gay characters, which I liked, despite that it felt like a last minute effort (with this being the final book and all) to make the books even more forward thinking. Nonetheless, I give her major kudos for this.
The characters are also as strong as ever. I liked Bitterblue and Saf quite a bit, and it was also wonderful to see many much beloved characters such as Katsa and Po back for another round as well. Perhaps the best character, however, is Bitterblue's librarian, Death; words do not even describe my love for this sassy little curmudgeon. I would read an entire book dedicated to him--so get on it, Cashore!
Overall, I this was a decent final installment to the Graceling Realm Trilogy, though I desperately wish that I could say better things about it. I still hope that all fans of the previous two books check it out because it does provide a satisfactory ending, at the least.