For those of you who aren’t aware, I don’t very often review every book of a series, mainly because it’s too hard to do so without slinging spoilers left and right. And in the case of Bitterblue, the third book in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series, one has to be careful about revealing spoilers from both Graceling and Fire (that sentence is itself a spoiler, actually).
On the other hand, there’s been a ton of buzz about this book, and I’ve been looking forward to it since I first stumbled upon Graceling back in late 2010. I received a copy of Bitterblue for my birthday, and it seems wrong to read it and set it aside without mentioning it here.
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Bitterblue and don’t want it ruined for you, stop reading now.
There were so many things I liked about this book. At the beginning Bitterblue is so uncertain of herself, and I loved seeing her grow and take responsibility for her people and her own, perhaps misguided, actions.
Second, I was glad to see the return of Po and Katsa in ways that were integral to the story, but didn’t take away from Bitterblue’s tale. Along those same lines, I had been wondering how long it would take the Seven Kingdoms and the Dells (the land in which Fire is set) to collide, and it was done nicely.
Along with some new themes—most critically being the importance of literacy and the evilness of those who try to take it away—returned my favorites: feminism, and the idea of “non-traditional” relationships. Katsa and Po remain unmarried, the reader discovers the nature of Prince Raffin and his assistant Bann’s relationship, and Bitterblue herself has sex with a man whom she does not marry — and all this without a single negative repercussion, unintended pregnancy, or even any genuinely hurt feelings. Bitterblue learns a bit more about what she wants and doesn’t want in a relationship, and I truly hope that the beginnings of a romance with Giddon continue in the future.
Which brings me to my one major complaint: Bitterblue is a victim of “Middle Book Syndrome.” There’s a whole lot of plot going on, but it all ends up being a buildup to meeting the people of the Dells; presumably it’s in the next book that both lands truly discover each other, in which Bitterblue’s possible relationship with Giddon will blossom, and a couple other major character-driven plot points will be resolved. Bitterblue left me feeling a little cheated.
If you liked Graceling and Fire, definitely read Bitterblue. You might want to rein in your expectations a little, though.
Anyone else read Bitterblue yet? I’d love to chat in the comments or on Twitter (@AmyPeveto).