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Friday, June 8, 2012

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only 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, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Released: May 1st, 2012      Pages: 563
Publisher: Dial Books        Source: Library

(Note: This book is a sequel of sorts to Graceling, and a companion to Fire.  If you haven't read either of  those two, you might still enjoy this.  You'll have no trouble understanding this book, and you don't really miss anything by reading them out of order.)

I'm going to go right out and sum up my thoughts right away: this book disappointed me.  I really enjoyed Graceling and Fire, but Bitterblue wasn't up to that same level.  Maybe Graceling and Fire weren't actually as good as I remember them, as it has been a few years since I read them. 

My main issue was that the plot dragged.  If I had been the type of person that left books unfinished, I would have put this down.  For much of the book, I felt like the main conflict was just that Bitterblue was confused.  That doesn't count as a plot.  When a plot finally did come around, I felt like it much more complicated and tangled than it needed to be. 

And that means quite a bit, coming from me, since I love complicated, tangled plots.  For example, part of the reason I love Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series is because the plot is such a huge big, messy web of intrigue, conflicting loyalties, betrayals, etc.  I'm a fan of that kind of thing.  But in this book, it felt like it was a lot more complex than it needed to be.  I think I would've liked this better if it had been more straightforward. 

My second issue was that Bitterblue did hardly anything herself.  Her advisers made things happen. Saf and Teddy made things happen.  Katsa and Po (I love Po.  Ahem.) made things happen.  Bitterblue mostly just sat in her tower.  (Speaking of Katsa and Po...there's a revolution in Estill?  What?  Cool!  Wait...nobody cares except me, apparently.)

My other, more minor issues: 1) Why is Bitterblue the only one with words in her name?  We've got a world of Safs, Pos, Katsas, Thiels, and then...Bitterblue?  What? 2) I had a hard time caring about the betrayals/suicides/past actions of certain castle people (I won't say who) because I was never given a reason to care about them.  Bitterblue did, but I never got that chance to get attached.  3) Bitterblue: "Hey, I'm depressed and there just so happens to be a guy in my bed!  Let' know!"  Not okay.  4) Raffin and Bann.  Also not okay.  5) Thigpen?  Really? 

All in all, it wasn't really a bad book.  It definitely had good points.  Saf and Teddy were fascinating, likable characters.  It was interesting to read about the aftermath of Leck's reign.  Thiel, Darby, and the other advisers' emotional responses to Leck's madness were very realistic and haunting.  Saf's Grace was a neat surprise that I didn't see coming. 

Edit 9/22/12: I keep on getting Google search hits for "what is Saf's grace in Bitterblue".  For all those desperate people...fine, I'll tell you.  Saf's grace is (highlight to read)  that he gives people good dreams.  Happy now?

This is an okay book, despite the criticism of this review.  I just felt the need to rant about a few things, since this book disappointed me and was definitely not as good as the other two.  The character development was interesting, and there were many questions that kept me wondering as I read through this book. 

I'd recommend it if you enjoyed the first two books.  Also, if this looks at all interesting to you, I'd recommend you give it a try.  If not, I'd pass on this one.

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  1. This is another book I've been wanting to read. I liked Graceling and Fire was pretty good too. But that's disappointing it wasn't all that good. I'll still try to read it though!

    Also, you know when you do those mini-reviews for books? Would it be okay if I did something like that on my blog? I'm terribly backed up on reviews and even if I do two reviews per week, I'll still never catch up for the amount of books I read...Just thought I should ask cause I think its a good idea...

    1. Also! I just got The Returning from the library today. And I saw that you just got done reading it so I thought it was funny that I saw that book here on your blog last night and then today I found it.

    2. It's totally fine if you do the mini-reviews. They're a great way of catching up if you're behind.

      That's an interesting coincidence, that you just got The Returning! I'll try to get my review up soon; I'm still having mixed feelings about it. Hopefully you enjoy it! :)

    3. Sweet, thanks! :D I know, it is! And it sounded interesting although when I read the first few pages, it seemed kinda dull. But I'm hoping it'll get better. :)

  2. I agree with you about Raffin and Bann. It just seemed random and so out of place. While I don't necessarily agree with that, I don't mind it in books if it has a point. This didn't. We never really see how it affected the Seven Kingdoms or anyone else. It felt more like Cashore getting up on her soapbox.

    Sorry. Mini-rant.

    Great review!

    1. Yes, it did feel like Cashore standing up to preach. Especiallly when there was a totally unneccesary comment towards the end, something along the lines of "Did you know? In that country, a man can marry a man and a woman can marry a woman?" There was no reason for the comment and it was obvious preaching. I don't normally have a problem with that kind of thing, whether I agree or not, but fiction is not the place to stand on a soapbox.

      I think it's also worth noting that one of the main people against Raffin's relationship with Bann was portrayed as a controlling, not-so-nice man. Just a thought.

      Thanks for the comment! :)

  3. I did not want this book to end. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore was simply a masterpiece, and was everything I had hoped for and more in the years of waiting since Fire. Kristin Cashore is simply a master of fantasy, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

    Charmaine Smith (For more about - Lake Clark Alaska Bear Tours)


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