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. Monea’s past has become shrouded 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 realize the truth. Her kingdom has been under a thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.
Whatever the past holds.
The 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 the key to her heart…
In (Very) Short:
+ final installment of the Graceling Realm
+ connects the two previous books
+ main protagonists search for the past in order to move on to the future
+ surprising twists in Leck’s history revealed (at least for me)
+ a different approach to the love story (which is secondary) than the previous books
In the final installment of the Graceling Realm I meet Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue again. Characters I got acquainted to in Graceling but who disappeared from the second book Fire. Bitterblue not only concludes the story but brings all three books together.
Bitterblue is Queen of Monsea after her father was killed and his terrible reign ended. Her advisers have ruled in her name the first years but now that she has grown up, her interest in her people and her city increase more and she escapes the castle during the nights. Realizing that many things are at odds with what she has been told by those she trusted, Bitterblue wants to discover the truth. The truth about her kingdom and the truth about her own past – about her father’s secrets, behavior, and his experiments. She slowly realizes that many want to keep those truths a secret at all costs.
I think this was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy and answered questions and doubts I had while reading the other installments. It brought all three books together. I got to meet old friends from the first book and although I have to confess that I forgot quite a lot about those characters (it was a long time ago I read the first novel), it all came back to me quickly. (And it reaffirmed my wish to read Graceling again)
Bitterblue herself is a strong yet not completed or perfect character. She has to learn to come out of her protective shell. A shell she might not have chosen herself but was put in. Her desire and drive to understand what is going on in her kingdom, what happened in her past, and what king Leck really did, are understandable. Whatever happens in your life forms you into the person that you are. She grows with every discovery and is able to take charge when it is needed most.
The trauma caused by the abuse of Leck, the toll it took on the victims and the desire to suppress the past is interwoven into the narrative and is neither subtle nor dominant. Cashore did not shy away to show the consequences of that trauma and I take my hat of to her.
The narrative pace and the story itself were interesting yet seemed sometimes a little dragged. The obligatory love story followed the common scheme in this trilogy but had an interesting twist which I personally enjoyed quite a lot. But maybe it could be unsatisfactory to other readers.
This edition of Bitterblue has beautiful illustrations by Ian Schoenherr which really helped me imagining all those fantastic bridges. They are quite stunning.
A wonderful and satisfying finale, which did not shy away from difficult topics and surprising twists. I thoroughly enjoyed the trilogy and can recommend the books wholeheartedly.