Book Review

Bitterblue

Bitterblue

  • Author: Kristin Cashore
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2012
  • Publisher: Dial
  • Series: Graceling Realm #3

CONTENT WARNING: violence, murder, sexual assault, blood, mention of harm to animals, mention of torture, alcoholism, trauma, suicide, grief

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Welcome to a glorious realm of mystery, magic, heroism and danger.

In a world where a small percentage of people have an extreme skill called a Grace, King Leck’s Grace allowed him to tell lies that everyone believed.

When Bitterblue became queen at ten years old, she thought her father’s murder meant the end of his violent, sociopathic influence.

She was wrong.

The intensely anticipated companion to the New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire is even more “pageful, exhilarating, wistful,” and romantic. Now eighteen and believing her advisers are overprotecting her, Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle at night to walk the streets of her own city, disguised and along—risking her life as well as her heart.

You don’t need to have read Graceling or Fire to love Bitterblue. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read them next.

Welcome to the Graceling Realm.

Despite not having to read these books in order, of course I read them in order because that’s what I do. I’m the kind of person that has to read the books in order, no matter what. And while the covers are beautiful, the stories inside are dark and brutal, with lots of trigger warnings.

While Bitterblue’s father, King Leck, has been out of the picture for a decade, there’s still so much damage to the kingdom that has still yet to be repaired. Bitterblue is only 18, yet she’s been running the kingdom for the last 10 years, with the help of her trusted advisors. But she’s only starting to realize how sheltered she has been. 

“The more I see and hear, the more I realize how much I don’t know. I want to know everything.”

As Bitterblue starts to sneak out of the palace and travel through the city to see it for herself, she meets two young men who change her life. In addition, we get to see some of my favorite characters from earlier books—Po, Katsa, Giddon, Raffin, and Bann, all of whom I was thrilled to see, especially knowing that they’re all good people for Bitterblue to have around. They’re council members, and while I wasn’t quite sure about the other people in Bitterblue’s life, at least I knew that this group of people wouldn’t steer her wrong. 

However, there’s a lot going wrong in Monsea, despite what Bitterblue is trying to do. There’s some seriously shady stuff going on in her kingdom, and it consistently puts both Bitterblue and the people she knows in danger, and a big central plot in the story is figuring out who is behind it. Although Leck has been gone for quite some time, it seems like his influence continues to reach out:

“Leck is dead. But if Leck is dead, why isn’t it over?”

Bitterblue is so young, and she’s been in charge for a long time. She’s really naïve, and a lot of that is by design—she’s been meant to be kept in the dark. There’s so much character growth on her part, both personally and as a ruler, and I loved seeing her work so hard to not only become a better person and a better ruler. 

“She was largely ignorant, she was trapped behind unknowable things, she was trapped behind things she knew but couldn’t admit she knew, she was a liar—and what she wanted to be was useful, logical, helpful. If a situation presented itself in which the right and the wrong seemed clear to her, then she was going to grab on tight. The world presented too few anchors for her to let one pass.”

I couldn’t help but get sucked into this story, full of political intrigue, personal connections, mysteries, secrets, and people dealing with trauma. A lot of the story focuses on overcoming prior trauma, as individuals, as found family, and as a kingdom. There was one thing that I didn’t love about it, and that was the way that disability was presented in the story. In a previous book, Po lost his vision, yet his Grace helped him overcome his disability, essentially offering a magical cure for his disability, rather than allowing him to be a complete person who also had a disability, instead of someone whose Grace completely overcomes his disability. As a disabled person, this is endlessly frustrating to see. I much preferred seeing Bitterblue’s struggle with an injury, and learning how to compensate for it. But aside from that, this book was done really well, and completely enjoyable. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next book.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 8

4 replies »

  1. I read the first 2 books when they were released, and I bought this book after it was published, but I never read it! Now, that the author is continuing with this series, I’m anxious to pick up where I left off!

    Liked by 1 person

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