BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore – double review!

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.

Whatever that past holds.

Two thieves, who have sworn only to 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, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .


Title : Bitterblue
Author : Kristin Cashore
Narrator : Emma Powell
Series : Graceling Realm (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)/audiobook
Page Count : 572/17 hours, 58 minutes
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : May 1, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Oof, now I understand why I had weird rememberings of not quite enjoying this on the same level as the other Graceling Realm books. Because this one is a lot. Not just in page length, either (ba dum boom hiss..).

I feel like Cashore has done a really great job up until this point introducing unsavoury characters who have done terrible deeds and that lead-in is what makes Bitterblue especially tough in the aftermath. And the way Cashore handled this, the slow, twisting, winding path in getting us to the end..? Well, I can definitey see that maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset to take that journey the first time I read it. Maybe I was distracted, maybe I put it down too many times to keep all the threads clear in my mind, who knows. But wow I could not pull myself away this time. Sure, there are some parts that are better than others, maybe sometimes it gets a bit bogged down or meandering, but it’s not without purpose. These things play an important role, and the confusion and frustration is real, in trying to pick apart lies and secrets. As well as the lost moments, lost people, lost items.

“.. that’s how memory works. Things disappear without your permission, then come back again without your permission.”

In a post-Leck world, after surviving the reign of a man who could crawl into your mind and convince you to do things — and generally his inclination was for awful things — how do you live with yourself? How do you deal with the trauma you’ve survived or the trauma you’ve forced upon others? When your mind has been so twisted and torn apart that you can’t even remember some parts of your life.. while other events, other deeds, that you would wish to forget have been tattooed into your memory.

[the] challenge, she thought, is to balance knowing with healing.

This was a hard read, it was. There is still some excitement, some romance, a little bit of levity and loveliness from reuniting with characters from previous books, and a whole ton of mystery, but Cashore has set up this devastating situation and she works her characters through it. She works her reader through it. And yeah, fine, no one is surprised by this anymore, but there were like three or four instances near the end that just had me in and out of tears. Feels, emotions, I had so many.

The characters in this world, particularly this book, are.. something else. Not perfect, no, and complicated, stubborn and bratty and self-sacrificing, so many things. But they are so much themselves, in their choices, their mistakes, their tragedies, in their missteps even with one another, that you (I) cannot help but love them.

I am so so incredibly glad I reread these going into book four (out January nineteenth!) and it is incredibly relieving, in my current “get rid of and downsize books you don’t love!” mode that these are not going anywhere. They are staying pretty on my shelves.



Micky’s 3 star review

I ended up listening to Bitterblue on audio as the library wasn’t being helpful with a copy at the ready. Although I enjoyed the read, I think audio may have affected my experience a little and I’ll explain why later (it has nothing to do with the narration).

I loved Bitterblue’s character and the depth of her experiences in Graceling, so I was looking forward to her book. When we met Bitterblue in this book, years had passed (about eight) and she was frustratedly ruling her kingdom. Bitterblue still had that wild streak and much of this story stemmed from her rebellious high jinks, just attempting to get a bit of real life experience outside of queening.

You can imagine that Monsea was a mess post-Leck and story rotated around that history, atrocities and its legacy. Bitterblue found herself embroiled with a character called Saf, a thief with integrity. This connection was meant to partly be the crux of the story but I didn’t feel their bond and I actually wanted Bitterblue with Giddon. Giddon seemed much changed since Graceling and I liked him so much more.

Major bonus points for all the Po time there was in this instalment and the bit of Katsa we got. Also the reappearance of an character (now elderly) from Fire. I love the interweaving of these seperate lands, time frames and characters Cashore has brought to the series overall. The last 20% of this read was the best part for me and pulled me back into love with the series after feeling a bit uninspired for the majority of the listen.

The narration was excellent, so it wasn’t this element that made me enjoy this book less. I think my issues were more about the many different characters and keeping track on audio can be more difficult (and you can’t flick back through the book to remind yourself). Also the Saf/Bitterblue connection reduced my feels on this.

But…I am primed and ready for Winterkeep and I’m really looking forward to it.

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