Series: Sequel to Graceling (Companion to Fire)
Bitterblue, now the Monsean queen, is desperately trying to repair her kingdom. It would help if she wasn't so terribly alone- she can't trust her advisers and her friends are always leaving. Perhaps that is why she starts sneaking out of the castle, to see her kingdom for what it really is. But it will take more than her nightly jaunts to solve all her land's problems, not to mention her heart's. When she meets Saf, a mysterious thief, her already-complicated life becomes ever more difficult, and she has to wonder whether she's even fit to be queen.
This is starting to sound redundant, but I LOVE Kristin Cashore's books. Each time I open one, it's as though I get to live in the Graceling Realms (and outlying territories) for a few hours, but it's never enough! She's created a world that I want to return to again and again. It's all in the details. In Bitterblue, it's the story rooms and the three bridges that really set the scene. It's Leck's chambers and the castle library, of course, because I'm a book lover. You think a gigantic library wouldn't make an impact?
The characters are, as always, fantastic. Bitterblue is trying to figure out the tangled mess that comes with growing up while handling the even heftier problem of holding together a broken kingdom. She doesn't make perfect decisions, but she has a strong heart and a good mind. The whole angle where she sneaks out of the castle at nights reminded me of Aladdin, which is one of my favorite Disney movies, so that immediately ingratiated her with me, too. (: Bitterblue has an insatiable curiosity and this driving passion that make her an excellent protagonist.
I would talk about Saf, but while I appreciated the romantic arc, it's not the focus of the book. This book is about Bitterblue's journey, which Saf just happens to play a part in. I'll just say that their relationship is as well done as the rest of the book, which is superb.
And my last note about the characters: Bitterblue is like a Graceling Realms series family reunion. Seriously, it was like seeing all of the favorite cousins you haven't seen in years! There's one familiar face in particular who has surprising growth.
Cashore's dialogue is so sharp and her descriptions are so vivid and I really just think these books are amazing. (If you couldn't tell.) I love how she subtly explores themes feminism, sexuality, power, and friendship (just to name a few), adding layers upon layers of depth to her stories. I've heard rumors that this is the last book in the Graceling Realms series, but I sincerely hope that that isn't the case.
*5 stars*A Quote from the Book: “The more I see and hear, the more I realize how much I don’t know. I want to know everything.”
Do you love this series as much as I do?