Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.
But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.
Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.
Title : Winterkeep
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book four)
Format : eARC/paperback
Page Count : 528
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : January 19, 2021
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 2.5 star review
Woe, for I am bummed.
Lets start with the good : where this book really shines is the worldbuilding. While the world had expanned a time or two in the first three books of the Graceling Realm series, it goes even further in Winterkeep. That plus the in-book passage of time, and new problems, is what keeps this series feeling fresh and, particularly in the case of coming back to a series so many years after publishing what seemed to be the final book, makes it feel less like the cash grab we so often see. But that said..
Maybe had I not just reread the first three books I wouldn’t have noticed as much (though that isn’t to say I would’ve liked it any more than I did..) but none of the recurring characters felt true to form. Giddon, in particular, felt strange as if he didn’t quite fit into the shape he’d once been formed of, and Bitterblue.. I don’t know. She was a harder character to like throughout the series but she was a character you could respect, to sympathize with, and yet she also felt a little untethered in this book, too. As for the new introductions? Didn’t like a single one.
The plot itself felt disjointed but I’m used to Cashore stringing us along on a wild ride that only starts to make sense near the end, but this one? I don’t know. Basically everything from the characters to their motivations, and how it drove the plot and their machinations, nothing really felt all that solid. I both appreciated and yet hated the inclusion of yet another twisty and toxic emotional dynamic, because it’s definitely important to shed light on and have young readers educated on how it’s not acceptable, but combined with the fact that I wasn’t enjoying the story, or the character who took the brunt of it all? Yeah, it was tough.
I think there was potential here, for sure, and I definitely maybe had too high a set of expectations after revisiting and rediscovering my love for books one to three all over again, but.. this just didn’t work for me. Not as a fan of the series or as just a reader of fantasy. I couldn’t love it, could barely like it, and it seemed to take me way too long to get through. I’m sad.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who hasn’t read already the Graceling Realm books but I would also caution fans to lower their expectations. I have no idea if this is kicking out even more books to come in this world but, despite how I feel about this one, I would still read more.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **