Author: Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling|Fire|Bitterblue (you are here)
Review Summary: Unlike Fire, this is definitely it’s own, very enjoyable story with unique new characters. I loved the first half at least as much as Graceling but the ending was very anti-climatic.
Although Bitterblue follows Fire in publication order, this book is actually a direct sequel to Graceling. Young Princess Bitterblue has taken over as ruler of Monsea following the defeat of her evil of father. Despite her advisers’ desire to forget her father ever existed, Bitterblue is doing her best to help her kingdom recover from his crimes. She eventually begins to sneak out of the castle on her own to learn more about the state of the kingdom. As she does, it becomes clear that her advisers’ have not been telling her the whole truth and may have ulterior motives for burying the crimes of her father’s reign.
In terms of plot, Bitterblue was everything Fire wasn’t – a fresh new story with a unique protagonist. I loved Bitterblue. She cared a lot about her people and really wanted to do her best to make things right for them. I also like that she valued education and was good at math – things which are not true of enough heroines 🙂 Although advisers trying to keep a young heir from truly ruling is a bit of a cliche, they weren’t simply motivated by power in this case and the mystery of their motivation made the plot more novel. We did dive into the action right way, but the element of mystery kept this a very different plot than the more combat-oriented prequels. I thought the plot was also improved by the believable changes in the world between Graceling and the beginning of this book. Knowing the history of the current world and why it is the way it is in Bitterblue made me feel more invested in the world Cashore described.
Speaking of Cashore, I thought the her voice matured a lot between this book and the rest of the series. She writes with a new confidence and great sense of humor which I don’t think we saw as much before, especially in Fire. Something about her writing style just roped me in and kept me up reading until 5am and the last page. Sadly, the ending is where this book fell short for me. I was actually disappointed I stayed up to finish it, which doesn’t happen often! The bad guys aren’t particularly competent bad guys and basically self-destruct. There’s no momentous final confrontation. The advisers’ secrets are really not that shocking given what we already know about Bitterblue’s father, which was kind of a let down. Finally, the romantic sub-plot doesn’t wrap up particularly conclusively either. And while that might be acceptable in a book with more satisfying resolution of the main plot points, in Bitterblue I was just left wanting more.