Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

I may be one of the last people--well, among fantasy fans, at least--to read Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Penguin - Dial). It had been lingering on my shelf since this spring, waiting for me to "have time" to read it uninterrupted. And then, before I knew it, it was Cybils season, and I was working my way down an alphabetical list of 209 books, and I was reading it right now.

Bitterblue is set in the same world as Graceling and Fire, and while one need not have read either in order to enjoy Bitterblue, I think those will help ground readers through the beginning of the story.

Bitterblue, a young queen, is overwhelmed with running the kingdom of Monsea, and she's not getting a lot of help. Instead, her advisors pile on paperwork and discourage her from leaving the castle. Maybe that's for the best; Bitterblue's father, the late King Leck, had powers that he used for evil on many of his subjects. The problem is that the new administration, in forgetting, is ignoring--ignoring the great wrongs of the past, and not truly able to make a future. That's the part where having read the linked books comes in: in the beginning, it's nice to know a little more than Bitterblue does, since she is so muddled, and later on, when the reader and Bitterblue catch up to one another, it's a bonus to understand references to the linked books.

Sheltered Bitterblue is curious, however, and eventually makes her way out of the castle to hear stories. This is one of several lovely literacy themes throughout. The people of Monsea keep their stories alive through the telling, and the stories live on their own, shifting and changing with the tellers. There are themes that are more textual; Bitterblue constructs herself, in a sense, through what she reads. And, ultimately, forms of writing are very important to the story.

There is romance, and adventure, and fighting, which one probably expects from Kristin Cashore, and Bitterblue has an especially complicated story full of puzzles, something new for this book. It's fiendishly plotted, and it might take more than one read to find and appreciate all of the hidden clues. Bitterblue is a fitting culmination of the Graceling series.

This book is nominated in the YA SF/F category for the 2012 Cybils. I reviewed a copy that I owned.


  1. I may be one of the last people--well, among fantasy fans, at least--to read ...

    Nope, I have yet to read it.

  2. Well, that means I am at least penultimate, then!


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