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 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'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.
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.
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....
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.
Cashore must be graced with writing, for her fantastic descriptions and enthralling story made me feel like I was alongside Bitterblue throughout her adventures. May we see another book soon!
I love this fanatical work Kristin Cashore has created. It's wonderful and easy to become a part of. As a huge lord of the rings fan I can happily say I like this to my adventures in middle earth. You fall in love with the characters, all with so much depth.
The actually reading of this story by Xanthe Elbrick is also spell binding. The nuances in accents really grab each character. I'm addicted and sad to have come to the end. Next?!?
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