Tuesday, August 5, 2014

[Review] Bitterblue (#3) by Kristin Cashore

(#3, Graceling Realm)
Graceling | Fire | Bitterblue

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 18/09/2013 (pb)
Publisher: Firebird
Pages: 608
Source: Bought
Genre: YA (14+) - Fantasy

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating:

My thoughts

First, let me preface by saying that it's been a month and a half since I finished reading this book and I barely wrote any of my initial thoughts and feelings afterward, simply because I didn't even know what to say or think. This series, and author, has been a major influence on me as a reader. Graceling was my first venture into high fantasy young adult fiction. It was one of the longest books that I'd allowed myself to be engrossed in from start to finish. Kristin Cashore was also the first author I'd ever met in person and gotten signed personally. So you could say that my writing this review saddens me is entirely correct. Because after this, there is nothing more. It's like recovering from a really good TV show, something that has moved you in more ways than you can even begin to understand. The Graceling books will always hold a very special place in my heart, of that I can be sure. So for all the reasons mentioned above, I'm pretty sure this review is going to be sloppy and not really any good at all, but it's important for me that I write this.

If you've already read Cashore's first two books, Graceling and Fire, you'll already have a firm understanding of her writing style and just how she weaves her characters into her slower-paced story, and for Bitterblue this is also true. Cashore writes beautifully and allows the reader to fully immerse him/herself into this rich world that she has created and built upon. The characters are such a delight to return to. I love that characters that were the focal point in the previous novels fulfill lesser roles in this book, but they also matter a great deal and we learn even more about them in a new perspective (Bitterblue's). Like Katsa and Po, who are definitely really important to Bitterblue and vice versa. They rescued her, and we never really got to know more about Bitterblue in Graceling, or how she felt about it all, about her sheltered world changing forever. This book sheds so much light on that; it was so very interesting to follow how everything connects from that book.

Bitterblue is now the queen of Monsea. She signs countless amounts of papers every day as part of her duty as the queen, with her royal servants and her father's advisers by her side. For a young lady of eighteen, this life bores her. So she does what any suffocating sheltered girl would do: she sneaks out and discovers a secret life in the streets, learning more about her father Leck's terrible reign in the story rooms and meeting some new friends who may just be her undoing. Even after Leck's death, the resonances in his ruling are still prominent, and then she learns what's really happening in her castle that will force her to take risks that will change everything.

This book is chock-full of politics. If that's your game, then this book will be a massive treat for you. I'm admittedly not so into politics, and found myself lost in it a little bit, however I still found this book extremely interesting and was never too bored. The plot is unsurprisingly much more complex than the previous two books, which only proves the genius and patience of Cashore (it took her AGES to get this book to how it is now). I loved the more action-filled scenes, as well as the quieter scenes that built upon the characters and their relations with one another. Cashore managed to bring out the emotional aspects that come with everything that happens in the story brilliantly, while also maintaining a steady pace that escalates as the plot thickens.

I loved Bitterblue. I admired her desire to always do good by others. I admired her intelligence, her loyalty and pursuit for knowledge, no matter how painful it may be. The fact that she's gone through so much throughout her miserable childhood and she's had a massive amount of pressure and responsibility pushed onto her so suddenly and at such a young age, and she wants to be the queen that her mother would be proud of and the kind of queen worthy of that title... she was a very likeable character.

All the other characters make an appearance in some way or other in this book: whether it is from memory or story (in the case of Leck), or by actual presence and involvement (in the case of nearly all the other characters from the previous books). And I liked that they weren't just static: Katsa and Po had more issues and battles to fight. I liked that they never took over the importance of Bitterblue's story, but that they also took on a life of their own.

More than any other 'new' character, Thiel made the largest impact on me. His story is so very tragic, and it's obvious that he cares for Bitterblue a great deal, right to the bitter end. He's such a sympathetic character, and yet it's a conflicted kind of love that I feel for him in the end, even after all he's been through. Cashore explores the shades of grey in every character's personality and background-- it's just awesome. Major thumbs up for character devleopment, Cashore!

The budding relationship between Bitterblue and Saf is incredibly sweet and lovely and just such a treat to watch. I loved the secrets and lies and games that play on between the two of them: she a queen (in disguise), he a notorious thief. I loved their dialogue and exchanges, the tension between them, the dynamic nature of their relationship in the face of their circumstances.

Bitterblue is a conclusion more than I could have asked for or expected. It took me just under a month to complete this beast. This may be the end of the series, but the story and the characters will live on in my mind, until I decide to re-read the entire trilogy (for this is definitely one trilogy I will be coming back to sometime in the future!). There were so many twists and turns that left me a little dizzy (from memory), so I will surely want to give this a re-read, more than the others, just so that I can truly understand it all. Regardless, I am extremely glad that I can finally close in on this trilogy. I am extremely glad that I decided to give this series a chance in the first place (I wish I could remember whose review it was that pushed me to reading it). There's nothing really more for me to say, other than the love that I feel for this trilogy is more than words can truly describe.


First lines: When he grabs Mama's wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt. Mama doesn't cry out. She tries to hide her pain from him, but she looks at me, and in her face, she shows me everything she feels. If Father knows she's in pain and is showing me, Father will take Mama's pain away and replace it with something else.

Favourites: "The more I see and hear, the more I realize how much I don't know.”


AUSTRALIA: Angus and Robertson | Basement Books ($5!) | Booktopia | The Nile

INTERNATIONAL: AbeBooks | Fishpond | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money. All opinions written here are my own.

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