Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

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

In a world where a small percentage of people have an extraordinary 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 "rageful, exhilarating, wistful," and romantic. Now eighteen and believing her advisors are overprotecting her, Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle at night to walk the streets of her own city, disguised and alone - 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. 

A few years ago, I spotted Graceling on a shelf at my library and loved it. When Fire came out in 2009, I got it that Christmas and had it read by New Year's. It was just as incredible as Graceling. So, of course, I was thrilled to find out that Kristin Cashore had written another book - and it's turned out to be even more stunning than the first two. 

Bitterblue is a remarkable book. I'm completely in awe of the plot - it had dozens of mysteries and struggles tangled together, but Kristin Cashore handled the complicated story beautifully. It was never too much to keep track of, and I was only confused when I shared in the characters' bewilderment at the problems they had to solve. The way it brought together events from Graceling and Fire was beautiful. And the ending was so perfect, several times I actually had to stop reading just to marvel at it. It revealed events that had been hinted at - I never saw them coming, but as soon as they appeared, all the foreshadowing made perfect sense. It also resolved all the major plot points while leaving enough open for readers to imagine the specifics of what happened after the final page. To summarize, it was flawless. 

While some of the characters had similar attributes or motivations, they were all dynamic and unique, and I loved all of them. There was no direct antagonist; instead, the book focused on the consequences of Leck's destructive reign and how the characters reacted. Many problems arose from this, of course, but the book did a stupendous job of showing the characters motives and conveying the shades of gray within them, without making it seemed forced. I loved the insight that was allowed into the hearts and minds of even minor characters, without ever venturing too far off track.

The writing was amazing. There were quotes that had me searching for something to write them down on, moments that made me laugh, scenes that left me almost in tears. Honestly, though, I don't even remember the way things were described - because when I was reading this book, I was there. The emotion was so raw, the world perfectly detailed. I wasn't hearing a story. I was experiencing it alongside the characters.

If you haven't read Kristin Cashore's books yet, I highly recommend them - you won't be disappointed. Chronologically, the books are Fire, Graceling, and then Bitterblue, though I'd advise reading them in the order they were written - Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue. Either way, you'll soon be swept up into a beautiful and thrilling story. 


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