Book Review: Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore

12680907Title: Bitterblue
Author: Kristin Cashore
Genre: YA Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date: May 1st 2012
Goodreads | Author Website

The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire.
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle–disguised and alone–to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.
Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Kristin Cashore is one of my favorite authors of all time. She has a literary talent that perplexes me and makes me feel more than a little jealous (but in a good way). In Graceling and Fire, the two previous novels in the Graceling Realm series, she crafted a fantasy world so mythical and strange, so different from everything I grew used to as a reader when I talked or heard about fantasy books, that is left me dazzled, mystified and intrigued. She has the rare ability to make her characters come to life on the pages of her novels. They’re multi-dimensional, complex people with a myriad of emotions and issues. I fell in love with Fire, and I liked Katsa a lot as well. Heck, I even liked Bitterblue, who was a side character in Graceling, and now steps up as the heroine of Bitterblue.

The problem is that, if I didn’t know the sheer amount of awesomeness Kristin Cashore is capable of, I probably would’ve rated this book a five. It redefines the standards of YA Fantasy literature, as well as the other Graceling Realm books. It plays with stereotypes and dismisses them, or turns them around and makes them new, fresh and original. Bitterblue still does that, albeit less so. It’s like, in a way, I’ve grown so accostumed to the awesome world that is the Graceling Realm, that it just doesn’t feel that new and shiny anymore.

Another problem with this book, as opposed to others, is the heroine. Katsa was strong, powerful, stubborn and capable of handling almost anything. Fire, although perhaps less powerful, more or less possessed the same traits. Bitterblue not so much. She’s a Queen, but instead of ruling a Kingdom, she’s being ruled by the Kingdom. Her subjects are still only starting to grasp the atrocities King Leck did to them by controlling their minds. They’ve missed out on so much already and went through such turmoil, that it’s left the Kingdom in chaos and despair. The people need a powerful, capable monarch to fix that, but Bitterblue, being a teenage girl who’s own father used the same mind tricks on her he did on others, isn’t up for the role. It takes a journey of self-discovery for her to decide what she needs to do, who she can trust, and what Queen she wants to be. In that aspect, Bitterblue is perhaps the most original of all Kristin Cashore’s main characters. What other book features a teenage Queen set to rule a Kingdom led to depair by her father’s wicked mind-control powers? The premise is astonishing, but the rest falls a bit flat. There’s no magic in this book. I don’t mean that literally. But there was something about the other two books that almost felt magical, and that is lacking here.

Mind you, Bitterblue is far from bad. It’s a very good book. It’s just that its light shines a little less bright when compared to the two previous books by the same author.

The mystery is…not at all that mysterious. At times, I wondered if I even wanted to know. The love affair was great, but could’ve used a bit more screentime. The rest of the story was so-so. There were elements that truly surprised me, and things I saw coming miles away. I also had the feeling the story dragged a bit, especially in the middle.

Bitterblue is a nice addition to the series, and when compared to other books, it shines far above them. Compared to the other books by Kristin Cashore however, it’s a tad bit dissapointing. Characters lacked depth and the plot lacked direction. I’d still recommend it though.

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