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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 . . .

576 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2012

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About the author

Kristin Cashore

39 books16.1k followers
Kristin Cashore grew up in the northeast Pennsylvania countryside as the second of four daughters. She received a bachelor's degree from Williams College and a master's from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College. She currently lives in the Boston area.

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5 stars
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Profile Image for M—.
652 reviews112 followers
August 12, 2016
review in progress

Review (May 2012)

Five stars? Four and half? Quite possibly my favorite of the trilogy.

In running for best read of 2012.

Original Thoughts (November 2009)
I am so surprised by the tremendous backlash against this series' arguably non-traditional romantic direction. And yet the backlash is fascinating. I see Katsa painted by some reviewers as 'man hating' because she doesn't want to get married or to have children, which is an interpretation that never dawned on me when I read the book, and I see backlash very vocally continuing with Fire, and this because while Fire wanted to have children desperately, she decided the lineage of human monsters was too dangerous to continue. There's backlash for this? Really? WTF? Is it so ingrained in our culture that 'happy future' equals 'wedding ring + pregnancy' that a mere story involving a happy future that resulted somewhat differently genuinely makes people angry? Well, that reaction to that presentation makes me genuinely angry. /fix or clarify

I can't believe Katsa's desire not to wed is being interpreted by some as 'man hating'. Katsa comes from a society where woman are the legal possessions (/check on this and confirm; reread Graceling) of their husbands and fathers, and Katsa herself is the legal possession of the king and has been her whole life. Katsa spends a significant part of novel working to gain emancipation and, having gained it, is entirely justified not to wish to put herself back into position of a legal possession under a husband.

The end of the novel has Katsa inundated with positive relationship with men ... she actively in love with a man, men are her best and closest friends, and she counts and is counted by men as her strongest allies... and yet, because she doesn't want to be a wife and mother, Katsa is 'man hating'? Ridiculous.

Man, I want to reread Tamora Pierce's Alana books now just for the refreshing taste of having multiple lovers before choosing one to settle down with without shame or backlash.

(House Like a Lotus, first experience of the concept of premarital sex.)

That said, I think that Bitterblue will be obligated to both marry and have children and she does head a kingdom and generally one of the responsibilities of a ruler is to produce an heir.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
September 29, 2020
Ok, so I did remember Cashore being a pioneer of writing about "controversial" topics in YA fantasy, like periods, birth control, not wanting to be married, etc. What I didn't remember was that she was a pioneer of redcon/nominal diversity too.

1) Fire has brown skin in Bitterblue. Have you seen literally every cover of every edition of Fire? Have you ever heard Cashore talk about her covers being whitewashed? No? Neither have I.

2) In Bitterblue, Bann and Raffin visit Bitterblue exclusively to be gay for a few pages, they didn't have a story arc. I still remember how in 2008, on her blog, Cashore refused to answer questions about these two being in a relationship, because " she doesn't comment on subtext" or whatever.

3) There is a lesbian couple in this installment, they maybe have one sentence each. If you are not going to make them real characters, why are doing this? There is a hundred characters in this book, these ones couldn't get any real rep?

Aside from that, although there was a moment in Bitterblue when I thought - "Hmm, I am not feeling that negatively about it this time", that thought started to disappear as I got deeper into the novel.

It's too long, it has too many subplots and characters (ciphers, embroidery, crown, Sapphire, Fox, bridges, Po/Katsa gang) that simply take away from the story to the detriment of the pacing and character development. There were people in this book that I couldn't tell apart. There was a romance that I couldn't care for. Bitterblue had more chemistry with a totally different guy. But this was another case when a Message was clearly more important to Cashore than storytelling. She is undoubtedly a message-driven writer.

And yeah, Katsa and Po were EXTRA.

All in all, I just didn't care. I see how many clever ideas Cashore had for this story - democracy! languages! art! trauma! truth! healing! governance! - and yet it was delivered in a convoluted, blah way.

I am much less curious and optimistic about what's going to happen in Winterkeep. And it's 500+ pages. The simplicity and clarity of Graceling aren't ever coming back, are they?

It's with a heavy heart that I'm giving Bitterblue only 2 stars. This book was one of the most anticipated reads of the year for me and will go down my personal history as one of the most massive disappointments. It has to be acknowledged, though, that most of the reviews of Bitterblue so far have been very positive and contained words like "genius" and "masterpiece" in them. My opinion appears to be out of norm.

After recently rereading both Kristin Cashore's earlier books, I feel that with each new one she moves away from the simplicity of her debut Graceling (and what I personally like to read) and in a direction that I can't follow. I enjoyed the action/romance/magic mixture of Graceling and mostly liked Fire, even though some of it was boring and over-complicated (I'm talking about the ball conspiracy scene), but Bitterblue is a completely different beast, a story that is confusing and indulgently long.

I've always felt after finishing Graceling that Bitterblue's story had to be told. She carries such a dreadful legacy - a deranged, mind-manipulating father, a country damaged by the 35-year long abuse by Leck's twisted magic, Bitterblue's own childhood traumas. All of this is in the novel.

Bitterblue is 18 now, a rightful queen of Monsea, running her kingdom efficiently enough with the help of her advisers who urge her to forget the horrors of the past and look forward. But then she starts noticing that there is something really wrong going on around her. People act irrationally, they lie about the smallest things, they make no sense. She ventures outside the walls of her castle, to meet regular people and to find out the real state of things in her country. Bitterblue comes across even more odd behaviors and crimes. She does her best to untangle the web of lies, puzzles and madness...

The truths Bitterblue uncovers are powerful, and they have to be explored. But I feel like Cashore arrives at those truths by a route that is too complicated, convoluted and scattered. Too many side plots, too much talk of ciphers and codes, too many characters coming and going, too many illogical occurrences that instead of making the story more intricate, end up making it too busy and messy.

I am definitely a fan of twisty, complicated plots. Bitterblue has that, it strives to be something akin to Megan Whalen Turner's and Melina Marchetta's fantasy novels (these three authors appear to draw inspiration from each other's works). But whereas I was consumed by Turner's and Marchetta's mysteries, trying to spot what was wrong and who was lying and why and guessing the connections among the characters, reading Bitterblue was mostly a confusing and irritating experience. Events and characters in this novel are completely insane. They make no sense, they defy logic, they stand out to any person as odd. Most of the book I spent repeating Bitterblue's own thoughts: What is going on? And why is everyone acting so crazy? As a mystery, Bitterblue did not work for me at all. Untangling a mystery in which no one even makes an effort to pretend to act normally is too much a challenge for me.

There are things I did like in Bitterblue. The prologue, containing a scene of Leck mind-raping Bitterblue and her mother is, in my opinion, the best piece of Cashore's writing, horrifying and affecting.

We also meet quite a few characters from the author's prior novels. Many I am sure will be happy to see Po and Katsa again (although they seem to be a lot more... animated than they were in Graceling).

And the last hundred pages, where some secrets are uncovered and things start coming together, are much more pleasurable to read.

But even keeping the positives in mind, I can't say I enjoyed reading Bitterblue. It was a challenge, it was a struggle.

I am waiting for more readers to review the novel to see if there are people out there who share my assessment of it or my reaction to Bitterblue is just a result of a severe case of reader/book incompatibility.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
January 12, 2019
This book is a narrative about how colonization can fuck you over. Starring a biracial and ambiguously queer woman of color, it follows Bitterblue as she tries to bring back the traditions, culture, & liberty her dictator father took away from the country of Monsea. Along the way, she must come to terms the legacy of a genocidal, terrifying monster as a ruler, one who wiped away every detail of the country and replaced it with his own imagined world. But she must also come to terms with the legacy of that monster being her father.

Never heard it pitched that way before? Me neither. But I’m serious about this, and I’m ready to write a serious fucking literary analysis here. Good morning, guys.
“But that's how memory works,” Bitterblue said quietly. “Things disappear without your permission, then come back again without your permission.” And sometimes they came back incomplete and warped.

So, what is Bitterblue about, you ask? Well, I don't think it can be fully summed up. In one way, it's a mystery– Bitterblue spends this book trying to discover what really happened during her father's reign, to both her people AND herself, and what is happening now. In one way, it's a character journey– Bitterblue's journey of agency and growing up. But in another way, it's the journey of a whole world– the story of an entire country's journey to free itself from a legacy of colonialism and brutality.

I've seen many say they had trouble with this book due to boredom. While I found this story incredibly compelling, it should be said that the first half is somewhat slow. And yes, there are a multitude of sideplots in Bitterblue, but here's the thing: I think the book works because of the pace. The slightly slow beginning of the first half is nicely offset by the slow-build mystery and character development of the book, and it completely pays off towards the second half.

And with all these different interlocking plots, the book still feels tied together and coherent. Why? Primarily because of Bitterblue's character. Bitterblue is one of the realest characters I've ever come across. She's not the type of fighter we tend to see in the role of a strong female character, but also not the type of sweet and simpering character we tend to see in weaker female characters. Bitterblue is clever, manipulative, and willing to fight for the people she loves, yet is given moments of being reckless, underconfident, and petty. This isn't a simple plot device; she's sixteen, and the narrative both explores that and lets her be a character beyond it. I also adore how her character connects the narrative; her inner conflict and outer conflict form a gorgeous map.

Hoooooo, boy, so I guess it's time to talk about the narrative now, huh?

Monsea’s dictatorship all but mirrors the legacy of colonial dictatorships. It is a world in which a culture of openness, a wealthy economy, and a structure of living tested for years has been completely overturned by a despicable, tyrannical leader, and now the people of the realm must pick up the pieces. And it’s all the more frightening because of the legacy of Leck - as a monster who could cloud the judgement of others, he has left the country’s old traditions all but forgotten. This is something neither Bitterblue nor much of the country has any way of being aware of, especially as the older generation has died out. The country’s old culture of casual queerness is something few are still aware of. The architecture is forever changed. Freedom of the press is nonexistent.

I've been sitting in front of a computer screen for around ten minutes because I truly do not know how to begin this review. This book is so, so deeply important to me, in so many ways. I've read very few books in my life that made me feel every emotion on the spectrum, and this is perhaps one of the best. This book is many things, but above all, it's a story of hope; a story of joy in the face of so much pain.

So let's sum it all up: Butterblue features a cast of well-written, compelling side characters, a hilarious appendix written by an actual character, a cast that is around 70% queer and 90% characters of color, a fucking glorious slow-burn mystery, a fucking glorious character arc for a young woman in a tight space, and a narrative around colonialism that sticks out in my mind to this day. I cannot get past how much I adore this book.

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Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
May 19, 2021
As it stands, Bitterblue was a bitter disappointment.

After the brilliance of Graceling and Fire, I was really expecting a lot more from the third novel.

Book 1 - we explore the Gracelings Realm (people with two different colored eyes have superpowers). King Leck used his grace to take over the realm.

Book 2 - we fall into the land of Monsters (people/animals with unnaturally bright/colored hair have psychic powers). In this prequel, a young King Leck attempted to take over this realm but was kicked out.

Book 3...we are back in the Graceling realm and follow...the politics of King Leck's ex-kingdom.


Apparently so.

Roughly 8 years after King Leck was assassinated by Katsa, Princess Bitterblue (now 18) rules the kingdom.

But her kingdom is full of lies and deceit - how can she tell fact from fiction when she has no idea where to even begin?

Honestly, not a huge fan of the third one - it felt too long and boring to fit in with this trilogy.

I really wish Cashore would've went the route of book 2 (and had created an entirely different land with different way of magic/creatures) for this third one but alas, that was not the case.

There were three main areas that qualified this book as a 2-star. I could not stand 1) the memory plot-holes, 2) the age issues and 3) the lackluster side characters.

1) Memory plot-holes

Much of the plot hinged on memory lapses (a personal pet peeve) and Bitterblue one-woman crusade against them.
“But that's how memory works," Bitterblue said quietly. "Things disappear without your permission, then come back again without your permission."
I understand that this was a side-effect of King Leck's grace but it was just so frustrating to read a whole book that consisted of that.

2) The Age Issues

This is in reference to how old Bitterblue is (18) and how old she is treated/behaved as (~10 to 12).

Everyone surrounding Bitterblue is convinced that she cannot handle the truth and do their best to avoid telling her anything remotely ugly. They lie about everything and anything, often without any discernable motive.

But she's 18 in this book and their queen. When she demands the truth it should be given. Period.

So much of childish antics and disregard for policy could be explained away if Cashore just bumped down the age.

3) The Lackluster Side Characters

Most of the subplot consisted of Bitterblue running around with some book-printing peasants. Literally. Only one of them is graced and he doesn't even know what his grace is.

After the wild and wondrous characters from the first two, I just felt so let down by the secondaries. They were just too normal for such a fantastic series.

Audiobook Comments
Read by Xanthe Elbrick and no complaints there!

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Profile Image for Mitch.
355 reviews605 followers
June 27, 2012
Graceling fans, prepare to be conflicted. Fire fans, prepare to be disappointed. Because Bitterblue goes where Fire has already gone before, and not only does this book not learn from Fire's few flaws, it repeats them and makes more than a few more along the way too. If you're an ardent fan of the first two books, maybe you'll enjoy seeing Po, Katsa, and Fire again, but, besides that, this book's too needlessly complex, too poorly developed, and just too long.

So the main theme's the same as Fire's, a girl dealing with the legacy of her dead father - a dead father who's ruined her kingdom, but Fire's just done so much better. For one, Fire's coherent, there are just too many side plots in Bitterblue, the politics of the seven kingdoms, Bitterblue's advisors, Saf, none of them coming together that well, so much so that it feels like the story's jumping from one plot to the next without any overall purpose or reason - not in the sense that it's horribly disjointed, but like everything keeps shifting from under you. Part of it's probably because, for most of the book, Po and Katsa show up just because this is the sequel to Graceling, not because they really need to be a part of the plot (the same problem with Leck's role in Fire, he just felt out of place with the rest of the book). And Saf starts out interesting enough for a new character, but after Bitterblue starts investigating her father's history he just doesn't show up nearly enough for a male lead while his interactions with Bitterblue end up seeming almost at arm's length. And his ending, I don't get it, I don't even think it's explained.

That's another thing with this book, the main plot revolves around the mystery of Leck's past and reign, and to add to the mystery, some things are overexplained, alot of other things are left unexplained. That's not always a problem, I liked for example figuring out why Leck did some of the things he did from his journals, how his time in the Dells explained much of his reign, but other things just didn't make much sense. Saf's ending again, a lot of Po and Katsa's storyline, the point of Lady Fire. I thought Fire's role would be as a model or something for Bitterblue, that they'd go into their shared messed up experiences with their fathers, something deep, but they never do, just superficially compares the histories of their kingdoms. Bitterblue does come out of it with a sense of how to heal her kingdom, hope for the future that things could be great like in the Dells, but I didn't really feel it, not emotional, too political with all the talk of pardons and new advisors. And Leck's still the villain (for the third book in a row), while everyone else's the victim. If this book is the last in the series, how disappointing.

Now, for all the Graceling and/or Fire fans I haven't scared off with this review, or new people who still want to give this series a try (you should, first two books are really good!), there are a couple of things to look forward to. Po and Katsa appear, a lot, and though I don't think they're quite the same as in Graceling, they're here. Giddon, Skye, and some others as well. Besides Fire's disappointing appearance, look for lots of Fire references too. The glass ceilings of the palace, the three bridges over the River Dell, the burial tradition of burning bodies, Leck's sculptures and stories, Katsa killing a rat with a different colored pelt. Too bad little things like these happened to be the best part of the book.

So, I wouldn't read this book as a standalone like I would Graceling or Fire, it's not that great. Not great as a sequel either, but there's stuff to appreciate if you don't mind the overall disappointment.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,469 reviews9,631 followers
March 22, 2017
This book! It was so wonderful and so sad at the same time! The feels.....................


I love this book so much! Bitterblue got to meet Fire. OMG! ❤


This is going to be one of my crazy reviews! I am all over the place with my feels.

I love Queen Bitterblue so much! And her father was that horrible man from the second book that I wanted a giant to stomp him into the ground. He tortured animals, people and woman. I can't even people! I. CAN'T. EVEN. And at one point Bitterblue and her crew find some journals they have to decipher from old King Leck and it was not good, not good, not good.

Let me list my favorites.

1) Bitterblue
2) PO
3) Giddon
4) Teddy
5) Saf
6) Helda
7) Teddy
8) Katsa
9) Death

you know what? there are too many, just too many.

PO is Bitterblue's cousin and he can talk to you in your mind and he can read minds so to speak and he's blind as a bat but no one knows about it. You have to read the book to find out about all of that.

There is so much going on in this book I'm not sure I can give it a proper review as I don't write proper reviews in the first place.

Bitterblue starts sneaking out at night and going to bars to listen to stories and such. She hates being stuck in the castle all of the time. Well, she runs into Saf and Teddy. They are thieves and Teddy is a sweetheart, he gets hurt in the book and all of this stuff. And Bitterblue falls in love with Saf and there are all kinds of problems when he finds out she's the Queen. I mean you can't keep something like that from a handsome thief right? Wait, that ending, I just realized. No, I need another book to find out. Is there a novella. Oh Lord!

Anyway, there are all kinds of conspiracies going on in the kingdom and people trying to kill Bitterblue and people killing other people and going crazy and committing suicide and it's just cray. There are some really messed up and sad reasons for all of that though. I mean this book =(

Katsa and PO are together and they both love Bitterblue so much and she them. They protect her and Katsa has taught her to fight and that helped since she had to kill a man trying to kidnap her.

Then they have this council that is going to go around and take out some miserable kings. I told you there is soooooo much going on. It's not confusing, just to someone like me trying to write a review!

There is a man named Death that is Bitterblue's librarian. He's actually been around for many years and he was there when Leck was King until the King was killed. Heh =)

Anyway, I love ole Death, he's funny without meaning to be and I had the perfect picture of what I thought of as him but can't find it. But I digress. Death's grace was that he could remember every book or anything he ever read and he was in the process of restoring books from his mind! HIS MIND PEOPLE! Can you even imagine. I loved his and Bitterblue's talks together though. And then later on they made me cry.

Thiel and heck I can't think of all their names are assistants to Bitterblue and they were to Leck too so they are not right in the head. Once again you have to read the book =(

I loved Madlen, she's a healer and she has a secret =)

There are Hold and Hava, they both have different graces. You know, I'm done trying to tell you all about the people in the book. There are so many and it's just so good and they all play so many parts! Let me throw in a few excerpts just because.

"Holt," said Bitterblue through gritted teeth. "I forbid you, absolutely forbid you, to climb into any more window frames and look down, wondering what would happen. Do you understand me?"

"Honestly," said Thiel, going to Holt and grabbing his collar, then pushing Holt to the door in a manner that was almost comical, as Holt was bigger than Thiel, almost twenty years younger, and enormously stronger. But Hold just shrugged again, making no protest.

"Pull yourself together, man" said Thiel. "Stop giving the queen frights." Then he opened the door and shoved Holt through it.

"Are you all right, Lady Queen? said Thiel slamming the door shut, turning back to her.

"I don't understand anyone," Bitterblue said miserably, "or anything. Thiel, how am I to be queen in a kingdom of crackpots?"


Bitterblue slapped him, as hard as she could. When he grabbed her wrists, she kicked him in the shin, then kicked him again, until finally, swearing, he let her go. "You're a bully," he spat out.

"You're a brat," she said

I can't find the stuff I wanted to write about Death. <--- not real Death, Death the librarian. I didn't write down the page numbers. There are more things I want to add to the review anyway later on. It's storming here so I'm just doing a quick crazy review in case I lose power again!

To be continued.......

PS ~ I love this book ♥

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Erica (storybookend).
359 reviews284 followers
January 28, 2021
If you know me at all, then you know I have been DYING to read Bitterblue when I first heard about it. I honestly couldn’t bear the wait. This book was first slated to come out one year ago, in April, 2011. Then it got pushed to September. Then! The publishers pushed it even farther to 2012! I was seriously this close to exploding

Hades Pictures, Images and Photos

But it was okay. I’m a patient person. No really, I am! I’m no stranger to the agony a reader goes through when they’re literally shaking with excitement and anxiousness for a book that isn’t out yet, and every day just feels like an eternity. The only books that have trumped my feelings of agony for needing Bitterblue were the Harry Potter books. But the Harry Potter books, and Graceling and Fire, don’t even have cliffhangers. Each book wraps up rather nicely, with just the promise of a new, fantastic adventure in the future. I’ve read books that have unbearable cliffhangers and I have to wait a year or more to read the next book. And that is pure torture. You’ve all felt that. But there are some books that I read, like Graceling and Fire, that have no cliffhangers, but are just so dang good that my thirst for more is fueled, and every passing day feeds more and more fire to it until I’m nearly busting with it all!

So, imagine my pure excitement when May 1 FINALLY was upon me, and I was FINALLY holding my most highly anticipated novel since Harry Potter in my hands. I’m sure I did a happy dance. Accompanied with squealing (mind, once I was out of earshot of the bookstore).

Tangled- Jumpy OMFG! Pictures, Images and Photos

It was a glorious feeling. A feeling of pure joy. I’m sure you’ve all felt that with a certain book, and so you know what I was feeling. Right then, my world was perfect. If I could just read the book, I could die happy. Then, I started reading the book. And, as happened with Graceling and Fire, Cashore and her witchery ways cast a spell over me, and I became absolutely riveted, my eyes gazing into the book, the words wrapping around me with their magic, and taking me captive.

hocus pocus gifs Pictures, Images and Photos

Now onto my review, which, as always with books I love so incredibly much, is overlong, because I just can’t reign in my love!

Bitterblue spoke of so many promises to me, whispering to me, beckoning me into Bitterblue’s strange world full of secrets and lies and hidden truths. This book was one big puzzle, with each chapter or scene giving me a piece to the puzzle. I love puzzles, and so when I find a book that has mystery, and lots of questions, and gives me little by little, bits of information, and I wonder what it could mean, and my brain is trying to figure it out, I become excited at the prospect of putting together a puzzle that the author has pieced together, then broken apart, and spread the puzzle pieces sporadically, (or strategically) throughout the book, so that I can put the puzzle together for myself. Cashore doesn’t give you all the pieces at once and then puts them together for you. She spreads them out to the very end, and leaves it up to the reader to piece together the puzzle in your own time, to find the connections if you’re looking closely enough. The continual wondering, and questioning, kept me interested and on my toes.

Bitterblue was a wonderful, incredible heroine. She’s not a fighter like Katsa and Fire. She’s quieter, and does more thinking before she acts. She can certainly hold her own. She was trained by Katsa, of course she can. But fighting isn’t how she takes care of her problems. She’s a truthseeker. She fights her demons by seeking the truth through reading, and remembering, and putting together her own scattered puzzle. I loved the strength she had when remembering her father, and discovering the things he did which threatened to tear her down. She didn’t let that happen though, and neither did her friends. That’s one thing I loved. Bitterblue’s friends who stood by her, and lifted her up.

I loved her determination to save her kingdom from Leck’s influence. Even eight years after his death, his presence still lingers in the people’s minds and hearts. He rooted himself so deeply that for some people, it is impossible to root him out and be free from their inner torment. Bitterblue believes that everyone in her kingdom is going mad, or spreading lies, keeping secrets. She begins to feel that she can trust no one. When bad things start to happen to truthseekers- people who are searching for the truth about what happened during Leck’s reign, and trying to right the wrongs he committed, including the wrong’s done by people under Leck’s mind control- Bitterblue puts all her effort into finding the answers, finding the perpetrators and understand why they are trying to stop the truthseekers from doing their work.

Cashore created the perfect bad guy. I really, really detest Leck. But that is the point. We’re supposed to hate Leck. And we’re supposed to want to know what he did, but at the same time, shudder at and fear the truth. That one part, when Bitterblue finally realizes what her father did to gracelings and young girls, I was shocked. Disgusted. Furious at this terrible man and his maniacal, horrendous mind.

Cashore built a beautiful, incredible world. And though it all takes place in Bitterblue City, the reader see’s the city through Bitterblue’s eager eyes. We see the castle and the city come to life as Bitterblue discovers new things each day, things she was too busy to notice. We’re shown a world of magic, and enchantment, and wonder, and stories. A world of intrigue, and deceit, and lies, and locked doors and keys leading into shocking truths, and bright spots of realization. We see how a mentally and physically destroyed city, reigned by a tyrant who could, and did, whatsoever he pleased, is struggling to pull itself out of its stupor, and captivity, trying to bring life and lucidness back into the minds of the people. In the beginning, Bitterblue spends so much time in the castle. But then she starts to venture out into her city. She sneaks out of her castle and starts to roam the streets, and begins to discover secrets about her city that she never would have known about while secluded in her castle. Wandering the streets, she finds storyrooms. Magical rooms hidden in the city where people tell stories and enchant the listeners. Fantastical stories, stories of Leck and Bitterblue and Katsa. Tales of their adventures, tales of Leck’s hideous nature.

Love Story
I enjoyed the little romance between Saf and Bitterblue. It was slow growing, and was beautiful, but also burdened with lies and secrets. Their romance takes a backseat to the plot. The focus is not on the romance. I love books that do that. Where authors don’t put so much attention on the love story and then forget the point of the novel, leaving the reader with an angsty romance, and little to no plot. I would much rather read a fantastic fantasy story with a stupendous plot, and a little bit of romance, then a novel that has the romance as the center, and tries (and usually fails) to form a plot around that romance. The romance in Bitterblue was done very well. It added that perfect touch of romance that delights those readers who love romance in the books they read, but Cashore put more emphasis on the actual plot, so those readers who aren’t quite romance fans will still enjoy the book. I do think, though, that a little more romance would have been nice. I would seriously be overjoyed if Cashore wrote another book about Bitterblue and Saf.

Cashore did a brilliant job at connecting Graceling and Fire to Bitterblue. As you read this novel, you start to see and understand things you didn’t in the previous novels. You see how Bitterblue has grown since Graceling, and how what has happened in her life helps her as she strives to save her kingdom. And Fire even comes to play a part. Which I thought was fantastic.

So, Bitterblue met all of my hopes and expectations (and they were high, let me tell you). And now that I’ve read it, the wait wasn’t that bad. It could have been worse, I suppose. I guess I can forgive Cashore for giving me so much anxiety. She certainly made up for it. I can truthfully say Kristin Cashore is one of my favorite authors ever, and I will wholeheartedly devour anything she writes. (Dare I hope there will be more in the Graceling Realm?)
Profile Image for Crowinator.
807 reviews355 followers
March 23, 2012
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Egregious spoilers will be behind a spoiler tag, but there may be a minor spoiler or two that I would not have considered a spoiler until there's a complaint. So be warned.

First Line (outside the Prologue): “Queen Bitterblue never meant to tell so many people so many lies.”

Cover Story: I want to live in a place that requires keys like this. Classy.

I like how the covers of Graceling, Fire, and now Bitterblue tie in together. They’re very matchy-matchy while retaining a unique look, with a vivid color scheme and a significant item from the story: the dagger; the bow and arrows; the keys. I don’t care one way or another about the whispy, transparent girl-parts (though I’m not sure why they chose to go with the lips on Fire’s cover) but it’s YA, so I suppose it’s required that we have a disembodied head or unfortunately close close-up.

Five-Sentence Summary: The last time we saw Bitterblue, she became Queen of Monsea at ten years old with the death of her father, the psychopathic King Leck, who had spent the past 35 years mind-raping everyone in the seven kingdoms with his Grace. Now 18, Bitterblue is still trying to repair her fragile, unsettled kingdom, despite the fog of uncertainty still clouding her own mind. Worse, she’s not sure she can trust the people she relies on to help run her kingdom, for they are all damaged irreparably from their time under Leck. Though her advisors want to pardon all crimes committed under Leck and never speak of the past, Bitterblue is determined to be a “puzzle solver, and a truthseeker”, for the only way to heal her kingdom is to first acknowledge its pain. But lies can be comforting, and truth can shatter, and as Bitterblue uncovers the past, she must confront those who will do anything to keep it hidden.

Character Arcade
There are truly a LOT of characters in this book, an entire kingdom’s worth and more, and the familiar ones gain even more depth and intensity while the new ones have full, intriguing lives of their own. Rather than go into every one, some of which would be spoilers anyway, here’s some of my favorites:

Bitterblue: I will have to reread both books, but I do believe that Bitterblue has now supplanted Katsa in my mind (though I still think that Graceling is my favorite novel). She is prickly and defiant, vulnerable, ashamed, prone to defensive violence and crying, and above all, deeply empathetic. Her narrative was funny and emotional and self-deprecating, and it might just be me, but it seemed like it had a particular cadence, a properness to the style, that was all her character. Plus, she’s always armed with daggers – how cool is that? I could stay in her head for more books.

Katsa & Po: Readers will be happy that the dynamic duo returns in this book, especially those who are interested in seeing how their relationship of “no commitment” works in practice. They are super intense, all of their emotions heightened, and their love story is still one of those epic tales. They accept each other for who they are but they do fight and make-up constantly. Po is in this book quite a bit more than Katsa; he becomes more of friend and sounding board for Bitterblue, while Katsa is a beloved but still awe-inspiring figure for Bitterblue.

Giddon: It actually took me a while to remember Giddon from Graceling, mostly because he didn’t stand out much in that story and here he has a surprisingly strong influence. He’s gone through a lot of changes, grown quite wise and good-natured, and his mentor-mentee-style friendship with Bitterblue develops organically.

Saf (Sapphire): This Lienid-raised (but not born) sailor turned do-gooder thief is Bitterblue’s love interest and, like Cashore’s other books, he has a push-pull relationship with her, with a lot of fun banter, emotional connection, and physical heat. She meets him on one of her nightly excursions into her kingdom to see what the people are really like – not just what her advisors tell her – and he quickly becomes a touchstone for her in her search for her people’s true needs.

The Advisors: Bitterblue’s four main advisors – Runnemood, Rood, Darby, and Thiel – just about broke my heart. Especially Thiel.

Death: This is not Death of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fame. Pronounced Deeth, Death is the best librarian of all time. That is all.

Style & Substance
Does this book need to be 545 pages? No.

Is it quite slow and tiresome in places? Yes.

Was I sad when I got to the end and realized there was no more? YES.

This story is all about truth and lies – uncovering secrets, and secrets within secrets; rediscovering lost memories; figuring out who is lying, and why, and who else knows – and trying to find a space in between, where those who need to tell the truth can, and those who cannot bear the truth can wait until they are strong enough.

All these secrets make for an intricate mystery, or series of mysteries, and what I love most about them was how they tie together the personal and the political for each character. Everyone in this story has a secret that they are ashamed of; everyone tells lies that they need to be forgiven; and everyone has a truth that they fear to tell.

A lot of the little mysteries – what’s up with the stealing of gargoyles? Why are the buildings in one section of town in such disrepair? Why does Bitterblue hate spiral staircases? – are just that, and they can be distracting, but the way they build upon each other turns in to something both intricate and monumental. It takes time for them all to come together, what with the sheer volume of them, and I did get impatient with it at times, but overall I thought the connections were often subtle instead of slow. It’s no Megan Whalen Turner-level of plotting, but I think it’s very close, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cashore develop more skills in that direction. She’s got the basics down; now she just needs to realize that just because, for example, she finds ciphers super interesting and has done a lot of research doesn’t mean that we need pages of Bitterblue translating coded messages symbol for symbol. Just tell us briefly how Bitterblue figures it out and give us the information we need.

This story is also all about blame and responsibility. Who is accountable for Leck’s crimes now that he is gone? He used his mind-controlling abilities to make people steal, and murder, and rape, and a host of many other things both large and small, but who was acting of their own free will, capitalizing on the general madness of the kingdom, and who was under Leck’s control? Who should bear the brunt of recompense to his victims? These are all interesting and important questions and the novel does a great job of exploring them, but what I liked most about it was the way Cashore brought in various reactions to self-blame – many who were closest to Leck committed the most monstrous crimes, but even though they had no free will of their own, how do they begin to forgive themselves? And of course, Cashore ties in nicely elements like Bitterblue’s taking responsibility for her actions as queen, and Po taking responsibility for his secret-keeping, and so on.

Finally, this is a story about the past, and as such, the ending is not so much an ending as a beginning. This might throw some people who expect a neatly tied-up story But it’s an ending with a purpose, one that’s been building the whole novel – it’s really a story of the beginning of Bitterblue’s true reign in Monsea, and much of it is bittersweet, involving her painful but necessary loss of innocence.

Vicarious Smoochies
This is the section where I discuss romance, and while the romance between Saf and Bitterblue is more of a side element than a focus, it’s still the one that I think will be divisive among fans. I’ll go on record as really liking how it turns out. As first loves go, it’s pretty damn good and realistic.

Otherwise, there was a lot of gay characters in this book, of which I am of course a fan. Raffin and Ban are delightful, as always, but there is also a lesbian couple, and . My other favorite romance is Death and his books and his mangy cat.

Mood Ring: Cloudy Gray with a Hint of Sparkle
The overall tone of this book is haunting and melancholy. The ending is hopeful, and there are some bright spots, but too many of the characters are living a tragedy to call this a happy book. There were dark elements in Graceling and Fire, but neither of them took them as seriously as this book.

Random Asides
Author’s Note (Acknowledgements)
I found it interesting that Cashore mentioned being counseled on Po and disability politics after she used his Grace to compensate for his blindness in Graceling (as a “magical cure”). I can’t say I would have ever thought of that, but I like how she acknowledges it as a potential problem and discusses what she tried to do about it in Bitterblue.

Librarian Super Powers
Death is one of the greatest librarian characters I’ve read. His Grace is to read inhumanely fast and remember every word forever (that would be my chosen superpower!); he grows giddy over research – the harder, the more impossible and obscure, the better; he’s snarky; and he has a library cat. The role he plays in the story, as one of the few people who remembers what Leck did (unsurprisingly, Leck censored and altered Monsea’s historical texts to suit his own purposes) and can acknowledge it honestly, is integral. Plus, I just loved how he and Bitterblue start out disapproving of each other and grow to be such comrades as they realized their goals are the same. At one point, she gives him an impossibly hard mental task and he tells her she is the queen every librarian dreams of. Lovely.

Monsea=Drusilla, Leck=Angelus (a totally unnecessary Buffy the Vampire Slayer analogy)
You know how back in the day, Angelus tortured innocent nun Drusilla until she went bonkers, and you spent all of your time either feeling sorry for her or being totally creeped out? In this analogy, Angelus is Leck, the torturing psychopath, and Drusilla is everybody in Monsea (the realm as a whole).

Obvs, Cashore's other books. But also, while Bitterblue lacks the preternaturally tight writing of Megan Whalen Turner’s and Melina Marchetta’s fantasy novels, I think the crossover appeal is strong for the Queen’s Thief series and the Lumatere Chronicles. Also, Tamora Pierce, particularly her Trickster's Choice series of two books.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
June 30, 2020
Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3), Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue is a young adult fantasy novel written by American author Kristin Cashore. It is preceded by Graceling, and Fire.

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. 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. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز بیست و پنجم ماه سپتامبر سال 2019 میلادی

عنوان بیتربلو؛ نویسنده: کریستین کاشور؛ مترجم زینب نوری‌فر؛ ویراستار محسن چراغ پور؛ تهران، آذرباد، 1398؛ در 534ص؛ شابک 9786226312929؛ موضوع: داستانهای نوجوانان از نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 21م

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 10/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for ~♥*Marianna*♥~.
717 reviews47 followers
October 5, 2012
Whatever this book is about I want to read it! Kristin Cashore has won my trust.
Profile Image for Carson T.
8 reviews
June 15, 2012
For those who don't know. This takes place 6 years AFTER Graceling's time. And Bitterblue was 10 or 11 then, so she's date-able age now. I betcha there will be romance. And just to throw this out there, because I JUST finished Graceling and the feeling is still strong. I HATE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Not really, it was fantastically written. I just wish the author would continue on with Katsa and Po, the fact she's leaving us hanging over a freaking cliff pisses me off. I've heard of cliffhangers, but at least the author is KIND enough to finish and relieve us. But Cashore continues with another person's point of view, and we probably will end up hearing bits and pieces about Po and Katsa's relationship....but not enough. I haven't read Fire, and plan on not reading anymore of this author's books. If they are going to leave me this distraught, ready to cry, then I'd rather not.

Some may consider it good when a book makes them cry, but I do not. It makes me angry that I could cry over a book, and a tad bit confuzzled.

^ Srry 'bout that. Just me raging, please don't take offense or get angry with me if this is your favorite book. I'm just telling my opinion. Thanks ^.^

UPDATE June 15, 2012: Oh my, I got sooo mad ^.^ By now I've read a TON of books where they just dedicate one book to one relationship and move on to another just as quickly. So I understand how awesome it is now, because I see some people mentioned in one book and wish the author does a book from their perspective. I'm not going to read any more of this series just because I'm not so much into this author anymore, but I just wanted to point out to those who like romance and will get into those sort of novels, that this happens quite a bit. But, when you see them mentioned from another character's POV, you see a sweet couple and it really does them justice. REMEMBER: this happens quite a bit in romance series. Anyways, thanks for those who supported me, it helped me get over the ending(which I don't really remember, but I do vaguely recall no marriage..pretty sure.)

and DO NOT get me started on MOCKINGJAY's ending.
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,759 followers
August 16, 2018
I love this world and Bitterblue was a great main character. The ending was abrupt and there was some pretty disturbing subject matter. But this book shines by pulling in the main characters from the previous companion novels. I'm glad I finally read this series and I'm sad it's over!

All 3 books are inclusive of varying skin colors and races, disabilities, and sexualities.

Potential Triggers (that I'm aware of): Mentions of torture and rape. Injury/violence. Suicide and thoughts or suicide. Dead parents (prior to the novel) and some grief.
June 15, 2012
I really wanted to love this book. It started out really good, but half-way through I was ready for this book to start rapping up. When it did finally start rapping up, it just ended with ZERO resolution. There has to be another book coming or this will be a major flop.

The only thing I got from it was the extent of Leck's evil doing. We finally see how truly twisted and royally f-ed up he was. And that was pretty much the story. Bitterblue does do a little self-exploration, but we just barely see the beginning of it and the book abruptly ends.

I’m sorry to say that I could have totally passed on this book.
Profile Image for Meredith Holley.
Author 2 books2,237 followers
November 12, 2012
Oh, Kristin Cashore, I would trust you with my life. This series breaks my heart and patches it all back together again. This book was so different from the first two in pace, but somehow, and I say this almost reluctantly, that made the end more meaningful to me. I am all about editing in stories, and for the first half of this book, the redundancies seemed unnecessary and boring. But, I don’t actually think they are now. I think they had some purpose, though I don’t know that I could articulate it for you. I was wrong in what I thought this ending would be, and I’m glad I was wrong. It was so much more brutal than I expected, but more meaningful in that way. Are there more of these? Are you going to write more books for me, Kristin Cashore? I love your people, the evil and the good, the sins of our fathers and frailty of our mothers. I love them.

This story picks up with little Bitterblue, now the queen of her empire. If Graceling borrows somewhat in spirit from Aliens, Katsa is our Ripley and Bitterblue is Newt. And now Newt comes into her own with the responsibility for a nation that was totally fucked by her father, by the lies he told and his control and manipulation. She doesn’t even know how fucked her nation is because after you’ve lived in lies for so long, how does anyone know what the truth is? And is the truth more dangerous that willful ignorance if what you’re ignoring is an abomination? Ugh. Beautiful, awful choices. And forgiveness! And stories! Oh man, beautiful. Just the idea of figuring out how to repair a nation from violence and lies is beautiful.

But, anyway, and Katsa/Ripley has taught Bitterblue/Newt how to fight and protect herself, and where Graceling pointedly tells the story of a woman fighter, a survivor, Bitterblue makes no point of Bitterblue’s completely human, normal ability to defend herself. She just can kick an ass if she needs to, and other times she can’t. Her strength is not a super power, it’s just human power.

This book, in contrast to the first two, felt more high-fantasy to me. It uses the conventions of alternate languages, involved descriptions of coded communication, and a lot of walking (which, to be fair, the walking is in the other two as well. Fantasy, man – bring your Nikes). It is not actually high fantasy, I’m sure, so don’t get all excited if that’s your thing. It is not my thing, but the incorporation of those conventions seemed fun to me, not annoying. It kept enough of a super-hero feel that I tracked.

Now I’m going to talk about where this series really resonates with me. I always think, you know, women are raised that a man on a white horse will come, swoop us up, marry us, and that marriage will magically solve all of our problems. When that doesn’t actually happen, we think, Oh, it’s because if we have children, that will actually solve all of our problems. When having children doesn’t solve all of our problems, we think, Oh, if we run off to an exotic island and have a romantic Eat Pray Love affair, that will solve all of our problems.

I think men are in basically the same position – if he finds the right girl and marries her, she will decorate his house, and always be there with a smile, a hug, and a plate of cookies, and that will solve the problems. Then, when that doesn’t work, it’s basically the same with the children and the affair. But, in the end, we are always left with ourselves. Marriage and children and lovers don’t take us away from ourselves and fix us the way the stories promised.

I love the way the Twilight saga exaggerates those promises to the point of absolute absurdity, but I love even more the way this series exists entirely outside of those promises. This series doesn’t try to deus ex machina our guilts, doubts, and shame away, but it presents characters working through them, living with grief, and learning about their power.

I think it is a second-wave feminism phrase to say a woman is empowered or disempowered, and I’ve been thinking about the use of that word lately because someone I’ve been around a lot routinely uses it. I kind of don’t like the word “empowerment,” I think. It seems somewhat inaccurate to me, even along the lines of the promise that our problems can be magically solved by some kind of social convention. “Marriage didn’t magically solve your problems? Well, then, empowerment will magically solve them.” I don’t think everyone means that when they use the word “empowerment,” just like I don’t think everyone who gets married or has kids thinks that will magically solve their problems, but I think both avenues can lead to that expectation. The idea of empowerment or disempowerment just sounds to me like somehow you can subscribe to something outside of yourself that will magically take away your problems. It indicates that the power wasn't there all along, but if you follow the treasure map right, you'll find the magic problem-solving solution.

But, along those lines, I love the message in this book, like in The Hunger Games series, that we need to discover our own power - that it was there all along, and that life was never about finding a magic that lets us take the easy way out. In Mockingjay, everyone around Katniss reminds her of her power until she recognizes it. Here, similarly, this story is a journey of Bitterblue realizing her power. It is beautiful. It is the work that we all face that is bigger than marriage or children or politics or career. It’s the self that we are left with when the world is on our shoulders and we have no shoulder to lean on ourselves. This story is full of so much hope and so many dreams. I love it.
Profile Image for Nasom.
195 reviews139 followers
May 21, 2018
Although this is the third book of the Graceling Realm series. This is the sequel to “Graceling” and is set 8 years after events that happened in Graceling.

This book is about Bitterblue now 18 and is Queen. She is trying to find a way to help her kingdom move forward after the manipulation it was under during the reign of a mad king for over 30 years. There are people in the kingdom who want to know what really happened in those years and there are some that want to make sure the truth doesn’t come out by killing the truth seekers. Bitterblue is trying to investigate what the truth is and who the people doing the killing are.

This book had potentials especially with the mystery but then things got confusing. Two more plots were added and they had nothing to do with the main plot which made the book more complicated. Also, the unsolved mysteries kept growing to a point where it because ridiculous and when the truth came out, it was anti-climatic.

I was hoping the romance would at least be good but that was also disappointing. Bitterblue decides to sneak away from her castle at night to see her city and then she meets a handsome intriguing thief ‘Saf’ who don’t know bitterblue is the queen (reminded me of Aladdin). Unfortunately, their “romance” was barely one seeing as he was hardly in the book.

I did enjoy seeing the characters from graceling such as po (my fave), Raffin and Katsa but that was about it.
Profile Image for Victoria Schwab.
Author 27 books103k followers
April 11, 2012
A hard book for me to review. I *appreciated* what Cashore did with this one, though I admit that GRACELING remains my favorite.
10 reviews1 follower
Want to read
January 19, 2012
I cannot wait for this book to come out! Contrary to popular feeling, I am happy Fire and Graceling ended the way they did; it leaves readers with the satisfaction that the romance wasn't for nothing and the character's feelings were real, and a sense of reality, of not know how each ended. Most of the reviews I've read that have been against Bitterblue being the main character, I have found that almost all of the readers feel this way because they want to know how Po and Katsa ended. Newsflash:
Katsa's whole character was against getting married, because in the world Katsa lives in being married gives your husband all the power, which she definitely does not like. It was clearly stated in the book that Katsa knew Po would give her what she wanted and all the freedom she wanted, but she still knew it was given to her, not fully her own. PO ACCEPTED THIS AND SO SHOULD YOU.
If Cashore went on to write that Katsa got married and had babies I would be hugely disappointed and aggravated, for, like I said, that is not Katsa's character at all. Cashore did a superb job with developing all her characters, and I am glad that is so, even if the romantic in me would have loved Katsa to be more open and lovable, almost like Fire.

Again, I cannot stress enough that I love where the new book is heading. If it has Katsa and Po in it, even better. I trust Cashore to do a wonderful job with this book.

EDIT: Now that the cover has come out, I have to say, it is beautiful! I'm looking forward to it even more!
Profile Image for Scrill.
407 reviews204 followers
December 15, 2017
8 years after the story of Graceling, Bitterblue is queen and things are just not adding up in her kingdom and she is determined to understand would make her a better ruler.

The Story-What I felt when I finished book was that I spent the entire time under King Leck’s rule and couldn’t really understand what was happening. The resolution of all the problems was really underwhelming and I thought the length of the book was unnecessary for the end result. The book really could have just been a novella.

The World Building-This was the hardest part about this book. All the lies and uncovering of the lies really made this book really obscure. As the two worlds of Graceling and Fire were interwoven it made for a really confusing book.

The Characters-Bitterblue and Saf and was happy that the book didn’t revolve around the romance aspect of the book.

The Soundtrack- Jhene Aiko ft Ab-Soul - WTH

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Profile Image for Adrienne Young.
53 reviews7 followers
September 3, 2016

I was so surprised when I started reading this book. I liked Graceling and liked Fire even more. I expected to like Bitterblue but I couldn't force myself. It seemed like Kristin Cashore took steps backward. It was jumbled, disorganized, and scatterbrained in the plot and I found most of the characters grossly underdeveloped. The romantic relationship should have just been left out because it was paid so little attention and it seemed so insignificant. It was not essential to any character's experience or growth unlike Graceling and Fire. I wanted to love Saf but he was completely obnoxious for the first three quarters of the book. The reason it caught me so off guard from the beginning is that the sarcasm and silliness is completely over the top. The decorum and language that made the culture and setting believable was lost. There was a lot of slang and it didn't match up. The fact that no one had respect for the queen and there was basically no court really bothered me. Honestly the book as a whole felt really immature compared to the first two books.

Edit: forgot something important. Note to all authors - you can only use a word like elucidate so many times. Diction, people! Diction!
Profile Image for Anja H..
733 reviews449 followers
November 26, 2016

“The more I see and hear, the more I realize how much I don't know.”

Oh my god, I love how this book brings the two previous ones together so perfectly!
It's been several years since I read the other books in this trilogy so it took me a while to get back into this whole world. Graceling and Fire were among my favorite books about 5 years ago, but sadly I didn't remember a lot about them when I started this one. Once I did though, I just couldn't stop reading and I HAD to finish it as soon as possible!

This whole story was so mindbending and unique! At first I didn't know where this story was going at all, the whole thing was pretty strange and twisted, but I ended up liking it anyway! This also involved some Katsa, Po and even a little Fire from the first two books and I loved it! I didn't know how much I missed these characters until I started reading about them again.

Full review coming soon!
910 reviews256 followers
April 13, 2021
2016: If Graceling was great, Bitterblue is near perfect.

I haven't been this captivated while reading in a long, long time. This is what I expected of books like The Queen of the Tearling.

Bitterblue is the most likeable, rounded character I've come across in YA fantasy since first encountering Tamora Pierce. She isn't pretty - described as plain, and not in a "she just doesn't know how pretty she is" way - and this isn't made into a whole issue, it's just... there. Yeah, sure, she does think once or twice how she wishes she were, perhaps, just a little more of a different kind of look, but this isn't an issue, simply a wistful passing moment. She doesn't suddenly dress up one day for a ball and become immediately stunning to attract the love interest, or rule the queendom better. She doesn't suddenly become anything else, doesn't suddenly encounter new powers or strength other than her own sheer humanity. Besides, far more important to her than looks is the ability to rule fairly and well, and help her country heal after the abuse her father inflicted (see Graceling for details - but it isn't essential).

The topic of abuse - in all forms - is covered deftly and without compromise. There are moments of horror, moments that are genuinely really tough to get through, but the characters keep you together while reading. They are all loveable - meaning that they all have elements that can be loved, or at least understood. No one is perfect, no one is simply "good" or "bad". Relationships are as complex as in real life. Issues don't suddenly become resolved because someone says "I'm sorry" - but the importance of that apology is never doubted.

Best of all, despite the heaviness, despite the topics covered, this is not a book of "issues" and morals heavy-handedly forced down on the reader. Monsea is presented as a lively yet recovering realm, not black and white but all shades of colour and it is impossible to not get sucked in. 500+ pages flew past and I found myself wishing there was more at the end. It wasn't needed for the story, I just didn't want to finish.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,405 reviews1,853 followers
April 10, 2021
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.


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for Sara Grochowski.
1,142 reviews567 followers
March 24, 2012
I'll start by saying I'm a huge fan of Kristin Cashore's novels. I was completely in awe of Graceling and Fire and can honestly say that there isn't anything I'd change about them. I'm sure they have their flaws, but I enjoyed every last bit of each page, line, and paragraph. That said, my expectations for Bitterblue were ridiculously high. Sometimes, I'm worried to read highly anticipated novels: I don't want to be let down after all the buildup. Bitterblue, however, didn't worry me one bit... Cashore took her time with this novel and I had a feeling she wouldn't send anything less than her best out into the hands of her fans.

I'm a long time lover of fantasy, but, too often, YA lacks the epic scope that first called me to the fantasy genre. This is definitely not the case with any of Cashore's novels. She's skilled at fitting an epic story line into a relatively small amount of pages (compared to, for example, the many, many volumes Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks employ). Perhaps it's wrong of me to compare these three authors - they are definitely all very different - but the world building and character development of epic fantasy is wonderfully present in each of these authors' novels and it continually surprises me that Cashore is able to do it so succinctly.

I adored Cashore's first two heroines, but I think Bitterblue is, ultimately, my favorite. I love her quiet, unexpected strength. I respect Katsa, but she's quite forceful... Bitterblue is exactly what Monsea needed to heal after the tyrannical reign of her father.

Like Fire and Graceling, Bitterblue also has a romance element. I'm always head over heels for the men in these novels... but Cashore never makes these love stories easy. And, though I yearn for happily ever after in every love story I read, I respect Cashore for creating and maintaining a necessary obstacles. In this way, despite the fantastical elements of these novels, they still feel real.

And it isn't just the romance that lends itself to realism. It's present in the growth and maturation of Bitterblue, the betrayal of those who promised trustworthiness, and the loss and suffering experienced while a country is at war. Cashore manages to offer her readers a place to slip away from everyday life, while still keeping their eyes open. It's escapism with a very real message. It's quite wonderful.

I'm forever recommending Cashore's novels and Bitterblue will be no exception. I seriously cannot wait to see what Cashore offers readers next. In the meantime, I'll happily revisit Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue.
Profile Image for Katy.
611 reviews333 followers
May 2, 2012
I'M SO SAD!!! I absolutely LOVED Graceling and liked Fire though not as much its predecessor, and I have been waiting for SO long for Bitterblue to come out. However, this book really dragged, and it was as mentally strange as the those whose minds are feeling the after effects of being warped by King Leck.

The biggest thing of all is NOT ENOUGH SAF. I know the book had more to do than just the romance, but it was disappointing how little he was in the book. And the end - I felt it was really unfair. There were two parts that made my heart ache for Bitterblue, including the part where she was telling him about whether or not she would take it all back. But unfortunately, the end was not one of them. I wanted to be devastating, but he lacked appearance in so much of the book that I just didn't feel it.

Now to the book. First of all, I don't remember Cashore's writing using so much interjectory descriptions. I mean, she'll be in the middle of a scene, and she introduces a character, and she would interrupt the scene to go on and on about that character's description, the Grace or some history. I mean, it was sort of okay at first - even though it was done with really choppy transitions - because it caught you up on stories written years ago, but after a while, I was irritated that it was inserted so abruptly and for a good while. And there were SO many characters so it happened a LOT.

And there were a lot of random scenes that I just didn't understand why they were there or why Cashore written certain things to happen. At the same time, there were parts that jumped from scene to scene that I felt like I missed stuff. For example, when Bitterblue realizes someone betrayed her.

I also felt there were a lot of parts in the book that made me feel awkward. Like her intended relationship with Po and Giddeon. I mean, I KNOW there's no romantic feelings whatsoever between any of them and it's not what I meant at all, and I know that it's because she trusts them, but at times, the way she acts with them just makes me feel at ease. I don't know how to explain it. And there were other things like when Katsa and Po reunite after the fight. She shoos everyone else out of the room, but she stays - even though she's not paying attention to them - but it's still odd that she stays.

I'm glad we get to see some of the older characters - though we don't see enough of Katsa and I felt we saw too much of Po though I kind of felt he's not the same character I loved so much in Book 1.

Overall, it's not a bad book. And I think if it had been written years ago, I may not have been as disappointed, maybe? I don't know. After years of waiting for this book, I just feel like Cashore kind of burst my bubble.
Profile Image for Anniebananie.
537 reviews400 followers
May 19, 2016
So eine geniale Trilogie! Lest sie einfach alle wenn ihr das noch nicht getan habt! Ich liebe das historische Setting, die besonderen Charaktere und einfach die geniale Auflösung und auch die Zusammenführung der ersten beiden Bände hier im letzten Teil. In jedem Band kamen bekannte Akteure wieder vor aber es tauchten auch jedes Mal viele neue auf. Außerdem sind die Bücher so liebevoll gestaltet, vor allem dieses hier. Mit Landkarten, Glossar und Zeichnungen. Hach so eine tolle Trilogie einfach! Komplex aber genial! :)
Profile Image for Christine Riccio.
Author 3 books101k followers
January 7, 2013
Moved pretty slow, but I enjoyed seeing how the kingdom/Katsa and Po are doing post Graceling. I think some parts could have been shortened, lengthy sections about decoding and puzzle breaking dragged on. It was at those points that I would put down the book or struggle to keep going. I loved all the new characters though, Saf was great.
Profile Image for Lea (drumsofautumn).
619 reviews627 followers
December 18, 2019
First read in German in April 2013, these are my thought after rereading it in January 2017.

Alright, it's absolutely no secret that I love the Graceling Realm trilogy and this book in particular. Rereading this trilogy has been one of the greatest experiences ever because it made me realize just how much I love everything about these books.

Bitterblue is especially wonderful because it brings together all of our beloved characters. It makes me so happy to see them all interact together, to see their strong bounds. In general I just love Bitterblue's relationships with her family, friends and also advisers. Especially how intimate some of her friendships with some men are, without ever implying anything romantic between them. We need more male/female friendships portrayed like that in YA.
But also the romance in this book is so wonderful and subtle. It's so far from many other YA romances where it's the situation of “I'd die for you, I can't live without you, I'd give up anything for you.” Neither of the characters included in the main romance ever forget their important tasks and that they are needed by other people. They get off track, they are sad or worried about the other person but they don't drop everything for their love interest.

I think the use of basically no tropes (as far as I can tell) is what makes this book most wonderful to me. It's what makes the friendships, the romance, just the characters in general so great to read about. Never once am I annoyed at any of them for doing stupid, not understandable things. There's no love triangle, no pretty dresses trope, no insta-love, no chosen one and even the little instances of characters lying to each other make ACTUAL SENSE and are not used just to frustrate the reader!

I even love the slow pacing in this book. This is a book of over 500 pages that I never, not on one single page, get tired of. I love all the little adventures Bitterblue has, the political intrigue, the mystery that takes so long to get solved. All the times Bitterblue spends in the library, the kitchen or anywhere else in her castle, simply to find out more about how the people around her live and work. The way Cashore portrays that Bitterblue is a queen that is kinda ignorant and oblivious to some of the things going on around her BUT throughout this books is open and willing to learn about all of it is wonderful.
In general I love the way Bitterblue develops as a character. She had to grow up fast to be a queen and has always taken this responsibility very serious. She loves her kingdom and the people in it but she is so removed from the actual people living in her kingdom. The journey Bitterblue goes on in this book does not only make her a better, more understanding person but also a greater queen.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the main villain of the story. I know many people find it weird that Leck, while being dead for over eight years, is still the main villain of the story. But I think it shows what a powerful and horrible King Leck really was. This book doesn't need a new villain. The old one is still present enough, haunting everyone and it makes sense. Introducing a new villain is in no way necessary, the few, “smaller” antagonists that we have throughout the story are more than enough to keep the story going. I think everything else would have undermined the power and influence Leck had on EVERYONE in his kingdom. The first two books are just not enough to even slightly grasp the power and influence Leck really had!

I also love how Cashore includes diversity in this book in particular. There are two same sex couples in this book and it's never really mentioned as problematic, except for when it comes to royalty and heirs, although it is mentioned as something that's gonna be changed in the future (it's just that in the particular kingdom where this is an occurring situation, the current king is an asshole).
Also Cashore always takes care of mentioning contraception in everyone of these books, which is also something we need more often in YA. Especially in Fantasy where there's no condoms or any other modern forms of contraception, authors like to act as if it's not an issue in these worlds. Cashore handles it subtly but as a reader you always know it's taken care of.

I guess it's clear from all of this how much I love this trilogy and would recommend it to everyone. I will recommend it till the end of my life. I think there's no YA Fantasy that you can compare to this. It is one of a kind. Unique but so simplistic. This trilogy will forever have a huge place in my heart and I'm forever thankful for discovering it.

Trigger warnings for
Profile Image for Fernwehwelten.
320 reviews205 followers
September 17, 2022
Vor Kurzem habe ich „Die Königliche“ beendet – nach „Die Beschenkte“ und „Die Flammende“ schon der dritte Teil von Kristin Cashores Reihe „Die Sieben Königreiche“. Und ganz ehrlich? Ich möchte sie euch nur immer und immer wieder ans Herz legen.
Dieser Band beginnt Jahre nachdem andere Bücher enden: Ein grausamer König wurde gestürzt und seine Tochter musste den Thron schon als Kind besteigen. Mittlerweile ist aus diesem Kind eine erwachsene Frau geworden – eine Königin. Eine Königin, die von ihren Beratern bevormundet wird, das Gefühl hat, ihr eigenes Land nicht zu kennen, und regelmäßig mit den Erinnerungen an die Tyrannei ihres Vaters konfrontiert wird.
Kristin Cashore weiß, wie man Charaktere baut. Bitterblue ist als Protagonistin so glaubhaft und nahbar gebaut, wie ich es selten erlebt habe. Ihre nachvollziehbaren Gedanken und Emotionen machten es mir leicht, an ihrer Seite immer weiter in den Kaninchenbau Monseas zu stürzen. Ein wahnsinniger Ort, dessen Bewohner noch nicht verschmerzt haben, was ihnen in der Vergangenheit angetan wurde. Es ist eine faszinierende Geschichte, die hier erzählt wird. Eine Geschichte von Tyrannei und Trauma sowie dessen Auswirkungen. Von Freundschaft, Einsamkeit und dem Kampf gegen eigene sowie fremde Dämonen. Für mich hat „Die Königliche“ es trotz ein paar etwas zäher Abschnitte geschafft, einen spannenden und tiefgreifenden Schwerpunkt zu legen. Charakterentwicklung, zwischenmenschliche Beziehungen, Rätsel und Geheimnisse – all das erwartet jene, die sich zwischen diese Zeilen wagen. Und ich kann euch nur bitten: Tut genau das.

4,5 Sterne!
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