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Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore
545 pages
Publication: May 1st 2012
Buy at Amazon

Don’t forget to get the eSampler via Amazon that contains letters from the Secret Council. Or you can just check them out here at Kristin’s blog.

Previous reviews on this series:

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.


Bitterblue was my most anticipated read of 2012. Graceling and Fire had me practically salivating, I loved both of those, devoured them, and I’m sorry to say Bitterblue did not live up to the previous books.

It took me 9 days to finish Bitterblue. I picked it up, I put it down, I read a few chapters, I read one page. At times I would be gripped and not be able to put the book down and other times, I couldn’t bear to pick it up. I went in expecting to love it and I came out just liking it. What happened? Why did Bitterblue not keep me interested? Read on.

My first impression of Bitterblue was that I wasn’t feeling it. The beginning pages really threw me off and I had a hard time connecting to the story. I loved Graceling and I loved Fire even more, so to have such a start really worried me. Do yourself a favor and reread Graceling and Fire before tackling Bitterblue, it will save you lots of frustration (or it could be just be only me that is very forgetful). Like I said, I had a hard time getting into it until Queen Bitterblue starts sneaking out of the castle and meets Saf- which honestly is just a few chapters in. Before that, the story just seems kind of stagnant and uninteresting and you really just have to push through it. I take that back, there are a lot of parts in Bitterblue that are stagnant and uninteresting, but there are also parts that are very interesting. I’m afraid I found more parts uninteresting than interesting and I’m very disappointed.

I’ll get to Saf in a minute but one of my main reasons for not liking Bitterblue was because of, well, Queen Bitterblue. She is a very whiny character. Selfish, whiny, naive, and did I mention whiny? I also think at times she’s rather dumb. Let me state that I never wanted to strangle her like some characters, but she has her moments where you just think, “How can she be queen?” At times, I did like Queen Bitterblue, like when she was with Po or with Death and some times with Saf. But for the story to be about her, I just didn’t feel for her the way I did Katsa or Fire.

My second reason for not liking Bitterblue was Saf. Don’t get me wrong, I like Saf. But instead of one of the main characters, he felt like a character that had been pushed to the side. There, but no really there. He is supposed to play Bitterblue’s love interest that takes hundreds of pages to even develop. I honestly do not know why the two are even together. Saf is hardly ever around and I just can’t believe that either character fell in love with one another. Don’t even get me started with that intimate scene that was so out of place that even now I still side-eye it.
Honestly, honestly (I’m using that word a lot. HA!), I felt Queen Bitterblue had more of a relationship with Giddon than with Saf. I was just waiting for a love triangle to start. There was definitely better development between Giddon than Saf and I’m sad that after over 500 pages, he’s left without a love interest.

My third and final reason was the confusion. Confusion over parts that were written. Confusion over the storyline. Confusion over the characters.
The characters would talk and I’d wonder what kind of secret I was left out of. I’d even go back and reread and still not get it or understand. To me, it seems like I was supposed to have prior knowledge of what they were talking about, or it would be explained like I was part of the group and supposed to have known what happened. Honestly, Bitterblue and Po would talk and I’d have no idea what in the hell they were talking about. Maybe I just didn’t read well enough, but I love this series, so I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Even the storyline I didn’t follow all the way because at times Queen Bitterblue would be thinking about some thing that happened and the next thing you know we’re on a totally different subject. It was annoying and it made reading uncomfortable. It just seemed as though for Queen Bitterblue to be trying to find the answers to her puzzle pieces there wouldn’t be so many pieces that didn’t fit or make enough sense. It was just awkward and crazy.

A slight edit: I forgot to include my thoughts on the gay characters that appear in Bitterblue. While I’m all for people loving whomever they want, Bitterblue struck me as odd. Seeing that I don’t remember any mention of gay characters in the previous books, it felt weird that all of a sudden two characters were gay and then, not too long after, there are more gay characters mentioned in Bitterblue. Why did I need to know that two extremely minor characters were gay? What was the purpose other than to say I have gay characters in my book? My personal feelings on this was that it didn’t work for me.

For one of the things I loved it would be the banter. I loved hearing Po, Katsa, Giddon, Bitterblue, Saf, Teddy and everyone else bickering. I loved it! What I did’t like is Po being overly depressed and Katsa just being…well, overly emotional. They just didn’t seem like themselves so even I wasn’t too thrilled to see them back again. But almost every time the group would gather they would bring a smile to my face.

The best new character is Death, the librarian. Seriously, his snarky attitude was to die for.
“Lady Queen,” the librarian said. “As Your Majesty’s request was disobligingly unspecific, I thought it best to deliver a range of maps, to increase the odds that one pleases you. It’s my fervent wish to return to my work uninterrupted by your little people.”
I loved every sentence I read about him.

I am disappointed that Leck was killed in Graceling. Being the character that, I think, really held together this series, I was disappointed to see him go. Though his presence haunts Bitterblue, it’s nothing like the real villain. We do get into some nitty gritty truths about Leck. He’s such disturbing character, you can’t like him, but reading about what he did was fascinating. I almost wish there was a spin-off or novella recounting the horrors he committed. That’s where I think most of my fascination with this series lies. Cashore writes beautifully, but it’s when she’s telling the horrors of the past that her writing grips me.

Overall, I still think it is an amazing series. Although Bitterblue has its hiccups and it can be quite crazy, I do hope that maybe there will be more stories to tell in the world of the Seven Kingdoms.

Spoiler mention: Can you believe Fire came into Bitterblue as an old woman? It was mindblowing to realize more than 50 years was the difference between the Fire and Bitterblue storylines. I thought I had bumped my head when she was described as old.