Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Review by Joshua S Hill
There is one thing that every reader should hope for when reading a new authors’ work, and that is continued growth: growth in the authors’ ability to tell a story, growth in the stories themselves, and technical growth. In time, books that reviewed middlingly will evolve into books that achieve higher and higher rating.
When I reviewed Kristin Cashore’s ‘Graceling’ I was quoted as saying that “it isn’t anything to write home about, but not something to snub either” and I rated it 6 out of 10. The sequel, ‘Fire’, was a 7.5 out of 10 and I said it was a ‘fun, witty and a wonderful story. And that is what I want to read!’
I waited in eager anticipation for the third book in Cashore’s Graceling series, ‘Bitterblue’, and when it came I ploughed through it in under a day, and loved every minute of it.
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.
There is something truly refreshing about reading Cashore’s work. It is not as well executed as a Rothfuss or Erikson, but has more vigour and life to it as a result. The lives of the characters are fraught with emotion and peril and draw you in so that you are soon running alongside Bitterblue as she runs to make it home before the sun clears the horizon.
When relating my enjoyment to my father, I explained how sometimes a reader is let in on the mystery that the main character is missing. Cashore doesn’t do that. The reader, along with the main character, are kept suspended in confused astonishment for a healthy portion of the book, and it creates a sense of urgency in the reading; a need to get to the next page, the next chapter, just to understand the riddle. When a book takes a hold of you and refuses to let you go no matter the time or the responsibilities, you can tell you’ve got a winner.
And the concepts that line the walls of this world – the Gracelings and the hidden histories, the sheer depth of hurt that Bitterblue’s father caused for his people – take you further into the world then the wonderfully three-dimensional characters, political intrigues, and mesmerising scenes of violence. It’s a new concept, one that does not allow for the immortality or invulnerability of some of the ‘gifted’ lead characters we are introduced to in other books. One’s special talent may serve in one or two situations, but not in every, helping to create fully rounded, understandable and, above all, likeable characters.
Kristin Cashore is simply one of the most inspiring writers currently putting pen to paper, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not picking up Bitterblue.
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