When Queen Bitterblue took the throne of Monsea, she was a child, and her advisers ran the kngdom for her. Now she is beginning to question their decisions, especially how they handle the legacy of her father Leck, who who ruled through his Grace—a special talent for mind-altering—and his taste for darkness and violence. Bitterblue needs to know Monsea’s past to lead it into the future, so she begins exploring the city sreets at night, disguised and alone. As she does, she meets two thieves, who hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.
Bitterblue is the third book written in the Graceling Realm. The other books are Graceling (the first) and Fire (the second). Cashore writes on her blog that they do not necessarily need to be read in order, which I agree with, although I was very glad I had read them in order; it made the story much more enjoyable since I knew the back stories.
Bitterblue is a young woman, 18 years of age, who became queen after she helped kill her tyrannical and psychopathic father when she was only 10 years old. Now she is Queen of Monsea, one of the Seven Kingdoms, in which some people are born with Graces, which can best be described as a sort of talent, although they are much stronger than regular talents. Bitterblue’s father Leck’s Grace was mind control, which he used to control and suppress his people, and perform terrible experiments on them. Bitterblue is trying to help her kingdom recover and be prosperous once more. This is easier said than done, as her advisors are trying to pretend the past did not exist and keep Bitterblue too busy to notice that her city is falling apart around her. Bitterblue makes the courageous decision to sneak out at night and learn what’s really happening in her city. She meets two thieves who teach her what’s really going on outside her castle gates, and at the same time teach her about herself.
My favorite part of this was how everyone seemed like a real person, especially Bitterblue. Her struggles were so real and easy to understand and sympathize with. She was in one of the worst situation a queen could ask for, and she was trying to recover from her own personal problems as well, like missing memories, her father’s abuse and the murder of her mother when she escaped so long ago. She tries so hard to do the right thing, not just for herself but for her friends and for her people. Some other characters from Graceling appeared as well, like Katsa and Po, along with some of their friends, like the handsome Giddon. They helped Bitterblue with her trouble and added some familiar humor and fun to the novels.
Like the other two novels written in the Graceling Realm, this would was so wonderful and magical that I wish I could go visit. I want to walk across the Winged Bridge and stroll into a story room late at night. I would love to visit Death’s (pronounced like “teeth,” apparently) library and pet his cat Lovejoy. I would especially like to meet Katsa, Po, and Giddon. Two days after finishing it, I am still thinking about this book and wishing it hadn’t ended. Kristen Cashore claims on her website that she doesn’t know if she’ll be writing another book; in fact, she never intended to write more than Graceling. I hope she does, though. There were too many unanswered questions and stories left untold for her to stop writing about the Graceling realm. Speaking of which, if you visit Cashore’s blog, you can find a ton of cool stuff, not least of which are the alternate cover images. The US and UK cover images for Bitterblue are above. I have also included the US and UK cover images for Graceling and Fire, because they are beautiful. I think Graceling is my favorite. Exactly how I pictured Katsa.
This book was one of the best I have read in awhile. I read several books I like and enjoy, but this one was literally impossible to put down. I hope Cashore appeases her adoring fans (like me!) and writes more about Bitterblue and her crazy friends.