Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore

From the prologue: 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 back 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.

He will say to Mama, "Darling, nothing's wrong. It doesn't hurt, you're not frightened," and in Mama's face I'll see her doubt, the beginnings of her confusion. He'll say, "Look at our beautiful child. Look at this beautiful room. How happy we are. Nothing is wrong. Come with me, darling." Mama will stare back at him, puzzled, and then she'll look at me, her beautiful child in this beautiful room, and her eyes will go smooth and empty, and she'll smile at how happy we are. I'll smile too, because my mind is no stronger than Mama's.

This is Kristin Cashore's third and newest book about the Graceling realm. It is set eight years after Graceling and eight years after Leck has been killed. Bitterblue, now queen of Monsea and eighteen years old, is struggling with the country that Leck has left behind, which was under his tyrannical rule for thirty-five years. And his influence is still lingering. Bitterblue must venture into the city and see what is really going on. And all her advisors have been acting strangely too. We're not sure who to trust.

One thing I liked about this one is that a lot of characters from Graceling are in it: Giddon, Raffin, Bann, and of course, Katsa and Po. Also, Fire makes an appearance towards the end as well, as an old woman, in her 70s or 80s. Bitterblue has a lot of intrigue in it, and it was nice to revisit the same world. One thing I can't help wondering is, what has Bitterblue been doing for the past eight years? Has she just been sitting around? Why is she only now realizing that all is not well in her land?

In this one, we get to learn a lot more about Leck and really his murderous and insane tendencies, which continue to reverberate throughout Monsea, and all the seven kingdoms. Cashore portrayed him very well indeed; his madness and cruelty towards people and animals alike.

There was a lot going in Bitterblue: many of the kings are being overthrown (with the help of the Council), many suspicious murders and fires are happening, new insights are being found into the mysterious land over the mountains to the east, and Bitterblue has been sneaking out into the city at night (I can't believe I didn't mention this before!). She meets two thieves/printers, Teddy and Saf. Saf is Monsean born, but being a Graceling (he doesn't know his Grace though), his parents smuggled him to Lienid, where Gracelings are not enslaved to their ruler. They know Bitterblue as "Sparks" at first, a girl who works in the bakery. Saf is sort of falling in love with her, and she with him. When her true identity is discovered Saf is furious at first, but continues to help her.

As you can see a lot is going on here, almost too much. There are so many narrative threads all once. For example, Giddon. He's a minor character in Graceling (he proposes to Katsa at the beginning of it), but he becomes one of Bitterblue's confidants, someone she can trust. Anyway, though there was a lot going on in Bitterblue, I still liked it as much as Fire, though not as much as Graceling. I would recommend to anyone who loves Cashore's two earlier books.

Read Bitterblue:
  • if you like fantasy
  • if you liked Graceling and/or Fire
539 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

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