Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Bitterblue (Graceling Realm)
Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.
But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck's death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck's reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea's past has become shrouded in mystery, and it's only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle - curious, disguised and alone - to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.
Whatever that past holds.
Two thieves, who have sworn only to 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, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart...
I was excited to read Bitterblue. I remember really enjoying Graceling, though I don't really remember the story, and I read Fire last year and enjoyed it. I was looking for a great conclusion to a series, but unfortunately Bitterblue was a bit of a flop for me. It was alright, but not great.
The story start with Bitterblue at 18 trying to rule her kingdom. She finally realizes that there are something off about most every one of her advisors and she starts sneaking out at night to see what her city is really like. There she meets Teddy and Saf, thieves who steal things back for people whom Leck stole from. I think my biggest problem is Bitterblue is so...she has been queen for 8 years now. Yes she was very young when she was first queen, but she has never noticed how strange everyone is. She has never thought maybe her father has something to do with it? She has never thought how horrible they must feel if they remember the horrible things he did? I know she suddenly starts to try and remember everything, but it was all a bit of a mess to read. She was a bit too...like she is just now noticing that something is wrong? She is a bit dense at times. Not really stupid, but she just doesn't get it at times. It was too much trying to make it this big mystery, when it was really just a big mess. Most of the story lines were things I guessed at, or didn't really matter.
I don't remember Katsa and Po from Graceling, or anyone from that book really, but I remember really liking the characters when I read it. I didn't really like them in this one. Po was a bit...I didn't like him. I didn't think he was a good guy, even though he was supposed to be. I think I will have to go back and read Graceling again to see if they changed in this book or if they were always the way they were portrayed in this one. I hope they are different in this one, or maybe the first book helps set them up in a way that they make more sense in this one...
The one part of the story that I enjoyed? Bitterblue's adventures into the city with Saf. I really enjoyed them and how she found out what her city was really like. Unfortunately about half way through Saf almost drops out of the story and there are no more adventures. Then it is just Bitterblue in her castle trying to figure everything out and rule her people. Disappointing as just when it was getting good it stopped with that story line. The end was a little lacking as well as it was too unfinished. Yes I can infer things, and sometimes I like open ended endings, but this one fell like it was missing something. When you find out who was behind everything and why it was just...not as good as I had hoped. I had guessed some of it so...I was just disappointed with the story.
Update: I went back and read Graceling before posting this. It was so much better than this book. I loved Po and Katsa, and Bitterblue is so much more mature and has such a better head on her shoulders in that book. I read it and then thought how did this smart, intuitive, take charge kind of girl turn into the weak, dense, timid girl we got in Bitterblue? I mean she is older now so I would have expected her to get stronger and be a better leader based on how she was in Graceling. So now I am even more disappointed in this book.