I can’t even begin to explain how long I’ve been waiting for Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore to be released. I adored Graceling and Fire, so I nearly fell over from sheer excitement when Orion sent me a shiny ARC of Bitterblue. I just loved the world of the Seven Kingdoms – it engrossed me so completely I just couldn’t wait to revisit with this book.
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.
I did thoroughly enjoy Bitterblue though, and I don’t mean to put anybody off. I think I was just expecting something a little more similar to Graceling and Fire. You know – strong characters who fight their own battles, go on adventures and use their Grace to defeat their enemies. That said, the wonderful prose, description and atmosphere are just as amazing as they were in the previous books – Kristin Cashore is clearly a talented writer. It’s a long book, but it sped quickly by. Parts of this book also tie in very cleverly with the others and serve to bridge the gap between the two a little.
I just love the whole concept of Gracelings – normal, human people, but with odd-coloured eyes and a secret ability that varies from person to person. Po, for example, can mind-read, but only thoughts pertaining to himself. It’s just such a brilliant idea and the author demonstrates it wonderfully, but I do wish they’d had more to do with the story than cleaning the castle.
Character-wise, I liked Bitterblue. She makes mistakes, but not stupid ones and she seems a genuinely sympathetic, thoughtful Queen. One of the benefits of a dialogue and perspective based book is the detail added to character building and this comes across strongly in people like Bitterblue, Po, Giddon and a few other characters we already know and love. I have to admit, I found Katsa a little irritating though. She seemed like a caricature of the woman we knew in Graceling – the text always makes a point of how she’s ‘rushing’ here and ‘dashing’ there, and her temper tantrums are irritating more than endearing. It’s like the author went overboard on how impetuous she needed to be.
There is a romantic sub-plot, but it doesn’t really interfere with the plot too much. It’s fairly believable and I actually quite liked it. Perhaps I’ve mellowed from my I-hate-ALL-the-romance shtick… Anyway. I don’t really understand how Saf was included in castle life quite so easily and he acted a little too much like a… a… nasty person (my instincts inserted another word here, but I deleted it because it was rude and apparently my instincts need a rap on the knuckles… in my defence, he did act like one) for my taste. There’s a limit to how much abuse is acceptable, especially if One happens to be the Queen.
In short, I really liked it but perhaps not as much as Graceling and Fire. It doesn’t seem to have the same drive behind the plot and it didn’t really need to be so long. That said, I felt sad when I finished it – you know, where you know you’ll miss the world you were temporarily inhabiting and you know it’s going to be ages until the next book in the series. I think I’ll reread the previous books soon, and re-immerse myself in the Seven Kingdoms!