Book #2 – Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
I have been a big fan of Kristin Cashore’s work for years. I remember reading Graceling maybe five years ago and absolutely loving it. I then moved onto Fire and loved that too. At the time Bitterblue hadn’t been released and I honestly had no idea that she was going to be releasing a novel based on the princes that Katsa saves in Graceling. I stumbled across Bitterblue last year but it sat on my bookshelf for many months without being read. I couldn’t tell you why. It was interesting to see the kind of reading experience this became when I remembered very little about the first two books. I honestly read Bitterblue as if it was a stand alone novel because of this. Cashore outdid herself yet again in this sense because I was able to read this book without remembering the first two and still I became so immersed in her world that I really didn’t need to know anything else. This book is filled with exciting scenes that make you sit at the edge of your seat, the kind of passion that most people truly believe you can only find in books, and a story that you wish would keep going.
The character of Bitterblue is particularly impressive due to her age. She is 18 and she is learning how to be the queen of a kingdom who has been under the spell of her horrible, mind-controlling father for many years. So not only does she have to figure out how to run her kingdom the way she thinks it should be run but she also has to figure out how to break that spell. Her curiosity is what drives her to find out the truth. She begins by sneaking out of her castle to explore the city that she knows nothing about. She understands that her advisers pile on the paperwork to distract her from what is really going on, so she must go and find answers on her own. She shows a lot of strength in going out into a city where most people despise her because of everything her father did during his reign. She does it anyway. She goes out into the city many times even after terrible things happen. After Teddy is nearly stabbed to death, she still goes back out into the city. After her and Saf are chased up onto a roof by people who want to threaten their lives, she still goes back out into the city. Her determination to help her people is very admirable and Cashore has created a queen that readers want to succeed and want to keep reading about.
The mysteries within the novel are very interesting to try and figure out. I have to admit that at times I did find them a little to difficult to follow. I am thinking of the various ciphers throughout the novel that Bitterblue must try and solve in order to find hidden messages from her mother and father. There are patterns that must be followed and key words that have to be used. It just twisted my brain a little! Maybe that was the point though. To create a kind of unsolvable problem for the readers so that when Bitterblue and her friends did figure it out it was that much more mind blowing. These ciphers also added to the mystery and the suspense because one would think that when you find something (like a journal) that will help you solve what has been going on that that would be the end of it. Cashore takes it one step further and allows these tools to be found BUT then these tools also have to be figured out. These tools, these journals written by Bitterblue’s father, are written in a completely different language and therefore cannot be read. The hope that was given when finding the journals is now put on hold because they now have to try and translate what they mean into proper English. Another amazing thing that Cashore does is create genuine uncertainty amongst the characters. King Leck was her father and he had the ability to control and alter people’s thoughts. Therefore, Leck could be brutally beating someone but when they leave him they would think that Leck was simply talking to them when they fell down the stairs, and that’s how they became injured. It is very interesting to think about how far he could go with a grace like that (they call people’s special gifts “graces” in case you didn’t know). So there are people in the kingdom, even in the castle, who are genuinely missing pieces of their lives because Leck took them away. Those memories still haven’t come back and they may never come back. As Bitterblue searches for answers she comes to a lot of dead ends and problems simply because people don’t remember what they actually should know. This information has been stolen from their own minds and in turn keeps Bitterblue from finding out the truth.
Cashore does an amazing job of laying out what the kingdom looks like. She has a map of parts of the castle to help the readers and puts a lot of detail into the places that Bitterblue visits in the city. She also keeps things slightly confusing because this is all new to Bitterblue and quite overwhelming so just like her we cannot have a clear picture of everything, which is genius.
The cross overs between her other books are done very well. She brings in Po, Katsa, and Fire, which is really exciting. Po and Katsa were in the first book titled Graceling. Fire was in the second novel title Fire. Katsa and Po play the parts of Bitterblue’s friends and protectors much like they do in the first novel but this time they are staying in her kingdom. Having Fire in the novel was very exciting because all through out Bitterblue there is a painting of a women with red hair, and Bitterblue wants to know who she is. When Fire shows up at her kingdom with Katsa, Bitterblue immediately knows Fire is the woman from the painting. Fire was kidnapped by Leck a long time ago because she also has a kind of mind control ability and Leck was very interested in women with graces. When cross overs like this happen it is always risky because now you are following a different character. You will be forced to see characters, like Fire, from a different perspective than what you originally had. This can either be really good or really bad. In Cashore’s case she did a wonderful job. She not only painted new pictures of various characters but stayed with what the readers would already know.
Last point is that I kind of wished that Giddon and Bitterblue got together. I know he is older than her but they were so cute together. He was so sweet to her and you could tell he really cared for her. It’s obvious she cared for him too. I was honestly rooting for Giddon and Bitterblue more than Saf and Bitterblue.
I would recommend this book to people who enjoy fantasy and that kind of midieval feel. This book has a lot of detail but it all helps push the story forward. It has amazing character development and a lot of twists and turn that keep you guessing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if another one comes out I will buy it … and read it right away this time!!