(The Seven Kingdoms #3)
by Kristin Cashore
Summary from Goodreads:
"The long-awaited companion to "New York Times" bestsellers "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 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."
If you ask me to make a list of my most anticipated sequels, companion novels and/or books part of a series, Bitterblue would be one of those on the top half. Reading Graceling made me adore Bitterblue so much, being only a child with a big responsibility already weighing on her shoulders, I wanted to see how she faired.
Nine years after the events of Graceling, Bitterblue is now 18 years old and has been ruling the kingdom after Leck’s death. The people of the kingdom have been left broken and disoriented, and it’s Bitterblue’s job to help them get back on their feet. But how do you heal an entire broken kingdom that is still haunted by a deceased powerful mind-manipulator’s oppression?
I have somewhat established a love and hate relationship with this book. There are times that I find myself loving the scenes then finding myself agitated to move on to the next event a moment later. And did I mention that this is a bit of a hefty book? So I guess that’s where my agitation came from, I’m worried that it would be all talk and there aren’t many things happening that would surprise me. Unfortunately it was more or less true.
Bitterblue (the book) had some of these really strange characters. Bitterblue (the character) has advisers who have too many secrets haunting them that hinder to let them function coherently. Most of the time they were just so annoying that I wish Bitterblue just fired them and pick someone else to do their job. It’s frustrating to see Bitterblue try to get them to open up about what happened but each time they just get lost in thought or space out, the more Bitterblue pushed only made the situation worse and I hate that these advisers were too loose-on-the-head to comprehend that their queen is willing to let them make amends from their mistakes.
The love story of Bitterblue and Saf is a short lived. I mean, come on! This girl is already carrying so many burdens and you couldn’t even give her someone to support her in a more affectionate way? I know Saf was angry but it consumed too much of the time in this book that they could’ve spent in a...I don’t know, probably a more romantic couple approach. The only time they had a deeply meaningful moment was a time when Bitterblue just witnessed a suicide. Now that moment, no matter how beautiful, is already tainted with something awful!
I still did like a lot of things in Bitterblue; like when Bitterblue had the initiative to take matters into her own hands, she went about the kingdom discovering things she never thought was happening under her reign and she’s willing to do anything to finally put things in perspective, even though people somehow see her differently.
I enjoyed Katsa and Po’s crazy PDA. Can you believe these two find it alluring to wrestle each other? They are really childish most of the time. But I love seeing the lighter side of Katsa compared to her stoic and oh-so-serious times in Graceling. They can be a little ridiculous but cute all the same.
A good surprise in this book was finding out about another Graceling in the palace that has been in hiding for several years already, and finding out about her relationship with Bitterblue... *sigh* I’m glad she finally got a bit of a break here. Another nice surprise here is the appearance of a very unusual set of people from another part of the land that Bitterblue and the rest of the kingdom only thought existed in Leck’s mind and never in real life.
Overall, Bitterblue is an enjoyable book to read. It may have been a bit too long for me but the mystery, characters, and most especially this imaginary world was a very vivid and pleasant experience. It might not have been an ending I would welcome with open arms, but it definitely provided closure in some way. I wonder if there’s another book though, the ending still seems to be open for another adventure.