The long-awaited companion to New York Times best sellers Graceling and Fire.
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 35-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.
©2012 Kristin Cashore (P)2012 Penguin
I'm not completely finished with this book yet (just started Part IV), but I have some issues I feel the need to voice.
#1. When did Katsa and Po become Irish? I get that Xanthe Elbrick did not narrate Graceling, but she did narrate Fire. And I understand different narrators are not going to have the same exact accents or voices as prior narrators. However, I think it's a narrator's responsibility to try to be somewhat consistent with character voices, whether or not they did the original book's narration. I find it very distracting that Katsa suddenly sounds like a middle-aged Irish woman and Po suddenly sounds like a teenage Irish boy-man. Luckily, they aren't the main characters of this book, so I can block it out somewhat, but it's totally distracting. I do like her interpretation of Bitterblue, though.
#2. On the part of the author, I get that Bitterblue is the main character of this story, but she has so much of Katsa and Po in this story as supportive characters that you'd think she'd stay consistent with their personalities. It's been 9 years. If anything, Katsa and Po should have matured more. Instead, I feel like they've backpeddled and act more like children than the 18 year old Bitterblue. And when did they both become so whiney?
#3. I like Bitterblue's character, alot. She does take some stupid risks with her own safety, but I am enjoying following as she matures both emotionally and intellectually as a queen, not just a girl. She's not physically bad a** like Katsa or Fire (afterall, Bitterblue is merely human), but I respect her as a maturing woman much more.
#4. The story definitely drags on during Part III. I felt this way through a chunk of Fire as well. I hope Part IV really picks up alot. Not only in the action department, but also in the romance department.
#5. I don't feel the same for Bitterblue and her romantic interest as I did in Graceling for Katsa and Po, and in Fire for Fire and Brigan. In both of the prior books, I was rooting for the romance. In Bitterblue's case, I don't really feel the same development or yearning for Bitterblue and her love interest to be together. Actually, I'm rooting for Bitterblue to fall for someone else who isn't the obvious match.
#6. I do really like how the author is weaving the world of Graceling and the world of Fire into this third book. Bitterblue's world definitely is tying the two worlds of the prior books together. Like I said, I haven't finished this book yet, but I'm hoping for another installment where these two worlds collide head on.
I picked up a shiny new copy of Graceling from the library shelf, and was enthralled from page one. The novel pulled me in so fast and hard that I did not spend much time looking for flaws, but I remember feeling at the time that this might a first novel phenomenon - glowing with passion and maybe the desperation of years of trying to publish. On one hand there is the author who seasons and deepens with age, and on the other there is the author who has a single story to tell and then, finding fortune, continues writing.
Perhaps that is too harsh, but that is how I feel about both Fire and Bitterblue. Bitterblue was rambling, the story set up as a puzzle but without any of the sense of mystery and discovery, or movement, that a puzzle should have. While the subject matter is adult - sexual and psychological abuse, espionage, politics, sexual relationships, self injury, suicide, etc. - the tone is simplistic and juvenile.
The character Bitterblue was more a conduit for events around her than an individual personality - a relatable but bland character. She did not comport herself with any of the subtlety or circumspection I would expect from someone raised to be a queen. Her love interest, Sapphire, was constantly dragged into the story without actually being relevant to it, and that felt forced. When, in the end, his Grace is discovered and he suddenly becomes very relevant to Bitterblue and her reign, the story doesn't even touch the possibility of his use/abuse by the crown. I assume this is because Bitterblue is too compassionate and high-minded to use the people around her, but that really doesn't help me see her as a queen.
A number of the peripheral characters seemed placed mainly to interact with Bitterblue, rather than to have their own lives and motivations. While her advisers did have their own lives, they were so cripplingly broken by their past that I wonder who has been running the kingdom for the past 10 or so years since the King's death. Some of the peripheral characters were characters from previous novels, and as another reviewer has commented, I was disappointed at the lack of growth in Katsa and Po.
The huge exception to this rule was Giddon, whom readers will remember (none too fondly) from Graceling. He had obviously grown up between that book and this, and was dealing with his own life. The moments when his story intersected with the novel were the most gripping and heartbreaking of the book, but those moments were all too brief.
I really appreciated this story on many levels. In particular, the process of healing on both individual and in cultural spheres. So often, in stories the whole plot builds up to defeating the big bad guy, but rarely do we get to witness the complex and dynamic process of rebuilding. This is a process we are in now, as we free ourselves from systemic oppression...It also celebrates the courage of the ordinary.
A great story but really, It just seemed to drag on and on! I got to a point where I had six and a half hours to go and was exhausted from listening. Skipped to the last four chapters and got what I needed. Great performance but changing the accents of Po and Katsa...a little disconcerting.
Yes, well spent, it was entertaining.
Unknotting the plot on why the charectors were acting so strange.
Out of the three books, this one was my least favorite.
I really enjoyed Fire and Graceling better.
It just wasn't as exciting.
This book is a continuation of a series, following on from "Graceling" and its prequel "Fire." I was extremely impressed by the way in which the author dealt with the aftermath of the events in Graceling. Given what had happened prior to the book's opening, the mysteries and problems discovered by Bitterblue in her fractured kingdom, and her gradual search for answers, all felt very authentic and relevant to things that happen in our world too. Though beautifully written and very entertaining, this isn't a simplistic tale in which a young heroine goes from one adventure to another for their own sake; there's real logic, and also a lot of heart and soul, to this story.
One point is that I sometimes see this described as a young adult novel. I suppose other novels read avidly by adults worldwide (Harry Potter comes to mind) are also described in that way, but the subject matter was often quite complex and sometimes very dark, even more so I think than the previous books in the series, and it didn't feel as if it was aimed at young adults in particular. (And it was certainly far, FAR superior to the numerous 'high schooler meets vampire' books filling the young adult shelves ;)
The narrator did a very good job too. The regional British accents (for each kingdom) did take a little getting used to, particularly having listened to a full cast recording of "Graceling" (in which Katsa does not have a brisk Scottish accent and Po is not Irish!) but on balance I think it was a clever choice. Also, all too often anyone heroic and/or a love interest is given a sort of bland 'Oxford' English accent (like Bitterblue's), but Sapphire's accent was north country and I thought it was a welcome change! (Though I could question why his accent wasn't the same as Po's, since they were both Leonid, and why one character from Katsa's kingdom didn't have a Scottish accent... but that's not really important I guess ;) The main point is that the accents were a clever concept, and didn't bother me once I got used to them. I'm from southern England myself and have a terrible ear for accents, so I am probably not the best judge of whether the Scottish accent was perfect or would have driven a Scottish person crazy, etc.... but then again, this is a fantasy set in another world, so I suppose it only matters that they were consistent ;-}
I've never written a review before, but this novel was simultaneously so interesting and so problematic that I felt I needed to chime in.
_Bitterblue_ takes the idea of post-dictatorship truth and reconciliation movements into young adult fantasy. The fantasy kingdom of Monsea was for many years ruled by an evil wizard (different terminology is used for magic-users in these books, but for those unfamiliar with the series, "wizard" will do). Eight years ago, the wizard was killed, and his then ten-year-old daughter Bitterblue became queen. Now eighteen, Bitterblue is just beginning to discover the extent of the physical and psychological harm her father did to the kingdom, through meeting members of an underground truth and reconciliation movement which her royal advisers have been suppressing through abuse of state power.
A young adult novel about truth and reconciliation movements is an interesting and worthy idea (I don't read enough YA literature to know if it's been done before). However, the novel seems to take the position that forcing oneself to repeatedly face and relive "the truth" is the only worthy response to trauma, when studies suggest that while this helps many people, others feel and function *worse* when forced to relive traumatic events. Also, the late evil king is a bit too much of an overblown, one-dimensional "big bad" (he rapes women, molests children, *and* tortures animals!) At times, the novel's obsessive recounting of his evil deeds feels like it's more for the titillation of the reader/listener than the psychological healing of the characters.
For fans of the previous books, major characters from _Graceling_ figure prominently, but mostly gratuitously, in _Bitterblue_ (and if you listened to the version of _Graceling_ read by an American cast, the Scots/Irish-sounding accents that _Bitterblue_ reader Xanthe Elbrick gives them may seem jarring). The romance plot is less central to this book than to the others, although it continues their excellent tradition of featuring a young woman character who thoughtfully and responsibly learns about her own sexuality.
Frankly, if I had been reading the book it would have been tossed into a corner--compared to the previous two books in the series this was a serious snoozefest. It wasn't a bad story if you were looking for a long (long) process of internal growth and endless questioning of self. But as the conclusion of a somewhat action-packed trilogy, I can only say Ugh.
I am 75% finished and only the voice of Xanthe Elbrick is keeping me going.
I wish this book was better linked to the other books. I became a sucker to a little romance with the first two books, so I expected Bitterblue to have a true romance story.
The reader should have used the same voices/ accents for all the previous characters in the other books that were currently in this book. I was a confused listener. Let me add that I enjoyed Kristin Cashore in the other
I enjoyed listening about the other characters especially the main characters.
What really disappointed me the most about this books was that there was an incredible amount of details that I took many little breaks and I would not know what the point of the details were.
I enjoyed Graceling (1) and I fully enjoyed Graceling-Fire (2)... eventhough they were soooo different from eachother and with little overlap, I truly forgot that Graceling-Fire is part of a series. Graceling-Bitterblue (3) I found myself trying to look for hints on how the books interlinked. I looked too hard to the point it became challenging to remain engaged. Let me add that I've been listening to this book for 3-4weeks, which is not like me.
All in all, each book are good "stand alone" books. Again the only downfall is that being part of a series I expected for their to be interwined storylines....
The first half of the book is full of questions and although not all of the questions are answered the ones that are give a satisfying result.
There are many characters in this book and it is helpful when listening to differentiate them through their accents or tone as opposed to keeping all of the names straight.
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