Publication Date: May 1st 2012
POV: Alternating - Third-person, Past tense
My Rating: 3 out of 5
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...
I found this quite disappointing. This was more similar to Fire than Graceling, in that it was a court intrigue. Although, it returns to the world of Graceling, with Po and Katsa and several other familiar characters. I was pleasantly surprised to even see Fire again. Bitterblue is now queen. Nine years have passed since her father's death and she is 18.
The story was decently interesting, and I enjoyed seeing the worlds of Graceling and Fire brought together, but the intrigue was not as captivating as in Fire, and it is not for those who found Leck disturbing. I heard some couldn't enjoy Graceling because they found Leck so evil that they couldn't stomach it. Well, in Bitterblue Leck is explored in great detail. It is all about his kingdom trying to recover from his reign, and so many people who can't, who were permanently damaged by what he did to them. It is about Bitterblue's search for truth of what her father did in order to know how to help her people move on from it. Several of his most disturbing crimes are described.
Bitterblue is a decent character but nowhere near as kick-ass as Katsa or Fire. Po was in it a lot. He was a supporting character throughout. Katsa appeared on occasion but not as much as Po. Also Giddon, who I remember not liking in Graceling, but he has changed a lot since then and is now good friends with Po. I loved him in this and actually think he would have been a much better match for Bitterblue than Saf.
I was seriously disappointed by her love interest, Saf. They met near the beginning of the book, and things began to progress as I would have expected. But just as they were starting to show an interest in each other, Saf discovered that Bitterblue had been lying to him and stopped talking to her. A huge portion of the book took place without any appearance from Saf at all. Bitterblue continued to battle her court issues without him and the book as a whole dealt with these issues, not with any romance. Then, out-of-the-blue, Saf decides to forgive her and they have sex. They were just starting to like each other when their disagreement began, so they should have started where they left off, just being friends. Or even restart at the beginning, if Saf felt Bitterblue had to re-earn his trust. Instead, they jump ahead. It really did not feel like they were at that place in their relationship yet.
I am reminded of the casual way sex was dealt with in Fire, in regards to Archer and the multiple women he impregnated, the strong promotion of birth control, and also the promotion of sex without marriage in Graceling. I remembered a lot of people complaining about that, but it never bothered me since you rarely see characters marry in PNR anyway, which is what I usually read. And birth control in itself isn't a bad thing. If you are gonna do it, be smart about it. But now that I look back at the series as a whole, I feel like Kristin Cashore's message is too clear. Its as if she is trying to say "as long as you don't get pregnant, sleep with whoever you want." This is definitely not a message I would want to give teens.
The ending was also very disappointing. It felt incomplete. Bitterblue solved her court mystery, but she is still a very inexperienced queen with a kingdom that still has a lot of healing to do, and there might be new mysteries to solve. But she is alone. All of her friends, Katsa, Po, Giddon, Fire, even Saf, have moved on to new adventures in their lives, leaving Bitterblue in her castle alone. It is horribly sad. Like the ending of Inheritance.
“I hear you're supposed to be good at manipulating people. Try a little harder to make me like you, all right? I'm the queen. Your life will be nicer if I like you.”