is the stronger novel overall, but I did see a continuation of theme in Fire
which I enjoyed, particularly the theme of young women taking charge of their sexuality and reproductive health choices.
I think Kristin Cashore
takes a largely unaddressed topic - whether due to taboo or controversy - and folds it expertly in to the narrative. I've seen other readers here suggest that she is anti-child and pro-casual sex because of this approach, but I think that is a rather superficial interpretation of what is going on here. What Cashore gives us are not two characters (Katsa and Fire) who are anti-child and pro-casual sex. She gives us two characters that, in the course of their challenging lives, have opted to define and explore their own sexuality, and have determined that parenthood isn't a path they want to pursue. These are two HUGE questions that any teen girl will have to face as a young woman, and in my mind, certainly makes it appropriate questions to explore in YA literature.
I think it's also worth pointing out that nowhere is Cashore's world-building (not that I remember, anyway) does she suggest that there is a stigma against women taking sexual partners outside of a sanctioned marriage. More than anything, it seems that the readers here critical of Cashore are most likely projecting a Western view of pre-marital sex upon Cashore's world where it doesn't belong. A stigma that we know to adversely affect women far more than men in our own culture.Fire
didn't engage me to the level that Graceling
did, but I certainly admire Cashore's writing of young female characters and I will certainly be reading Bitterblue