While it’s not entirely necessary to read Graceling and Fire (the first two books in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series) before reading Bitterblue, it is highly recommended…simply because all of these books are freakin’ fantastic!
On May 1st of this year, I rushed out to my nearest bookstore to pick up a book that I had every intention of reading immediately. Sadly, as it often does, life got in the way, and I just recently made the time to read Bitterblue, the third book in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling trilogy. I’ve been anticipating reading this book for a LONG time, and it was very much worth the wait. I absolutely adored Graceling and Fire, so I knew that Bitterblue would be no exception, but I wasn’t prepared for exactly how much I would love this third installment. It did take me a long time to read this one–nearly three weeks. (A lot of different things factored into this, including but not limited to being displaced from my home due to a break-in, webmaster training and faculty meetings at school, sickness, fatigue, work, and just being busy doing other stuff.) Anyway, I think taking so long to read Bitterblue helped me to really absorb what was happening, and, at least in this case, made entering this fantasy world the escape that I really needed it to be.
Bitterblue picks up eight years after the conclusion of Graceling. King Leck of Monsea is dead, but his legacy of cruelty–and his Grace of having everyone believe his lies–lives on. His daughter, Queen Bitterblue, is left with the arduous task of picking up the shattered pieces of Monsea and putting them back together again. But who can she really trust to help her? She is certain that her advisors–who also worked for her lying, sadistic father–are keeping things from her. She can’t get a straight answer from anyone, and anytime she brings up the past, those around her simply shut down. (Some things, it seems, are simply too painful to remember.) Her true friends and confidantes (Graceling‘s Katsa and Po among them) are few and far between, and, though they’re willing to help Bitterblue when they can, it ultimately falls to Bitterblue to find the answers she needs…even if she has to disguise herself and escape her guards to do it.
Bitterblue finds a new freedom when she leaves the castle and loses herself in the capital city of Monsea. No one knows her as their queen. She can be anyone and do anything. She can find some answers to the questions that plague her every waking minute. She can become friends with people who won’t make a habit of lying to her…because they don’t know who she truly is.
One of those friends is a Graceling named Sapphire. Bitterblue is drawn to him like no one she’s ever encountered. What’s so special about this young man? And what will he do when he finally learns the truth…that the girl he’s come to care about is actually the Queen of Monsea?
While Bitterblue is facing her new, confusing feelings about Sapphire, she’s also dealing with betrayal at every level, the haunting legacy left by her father, spies in her midst, uncovering the lost history of her people, and the threat of war with neighboring kingdoms. It’s all a little much for an eighteen-year-old monarch to handle. Bitterblue is doing all she can to keep her head above water, but the pressure of everything weighing on her is starting to make her question her ability to rule. Will she be able to rebuild Monsea while retaining her sanity, or did her father do more damage than Bitterblue can ever hope to repair? Read Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore to learn if one young girl can be the queen–and the hope–that her people need.
So, yeah…I loved this book, and you should read it. It’s beautifully complex, and it allows those of us who adored Graceling and Fire to revisit some of our favorite characters while introducing us to new characters to love and loathe. I think I’ve said this about the previous two books, but I’ll say it again because the same applies to Bitterblue: Tolkien fans will delight in this book and its companions. (My fellow Ringers know this is super high praise.) Kristin Cashore is wonderfully adept at world-building, and I found myself, at several points in this book, looking outside and being disappointed that my surroundings didn’t mirror those in Monsea (especially Bitterblue’s castle).
I can’t say enough good things about the entire Graceling trilogy. I just wish there were more books to look forward to.
If you’d like more information about this series or author Kristin Cashore, check out her blog at http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/. You may also enjoy the Bitterblue book trailer below. I truly hope you enjoy this book and the others in this series as much as I have.