Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Why I chose this book:

My hopes were conversing with the stars when I bought this book. I so dearly loved Graceling and Fire that I was sure I would love this one just as much. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Publisher: Dial Books
Publish Date: May 1st, 2012
Format: Hardback 
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy 

Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound

   Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea, still under the influence of her father Leck, a violent psychopath who altered minds. Her advisers want to pardon evildoers and forget everything, but she sees the past holds fast. Two thieves, who only steal what has been stolen, hold the truth and change her life. One, his Grace skill unidentified, has a key to her heart.

*This contains SPOILER-ish material.*

   To preface, I was severely disappointed with this book. I was fully expecting to love this book, but throughout the bulk of the novel I just became more and more disappointed. Also, I don’t think that the summary really did the book justice at all. 
3 things you need to know about this book:

   1. Complexity for complexity’s sake
   The story was told through the perspective of Bitterblue. She, as the other people of Monsea, sees her world through the lies King Leck (Bitterblue’s father) has left behind in the wake of his death. She’s trying to find the truth in things, and sorting through old lies can be tediously difficult. The world she sees and the words she hears are distorted; therefore, it’s complex for Bitterblue to understand and even more so for the reader. Overall, the plot was needlessly complex and quite frustrating to keep up with.

   2. The stock YA love interest
   Of course this story, much like other YA books, has a love interest. This is a fairly lengthy book, so it actually takes a bit of time for the love interest to develop between Saf and Bitterblue, but when it does it only turns interesting and almost slightly platonic. Her love story is curious, yet also extremely anti-climactic. Yes, they shared a few kisses and good conversations, but something was severely lacking that I couldn’t exactly pin point. Honestly, I didn’t want her to end up with Saf; I actually wanted her to end up with Giddon. But in the end she’s with neither. Though that ending was slightly refreshing for a YA novel, it also made it quite anticlimactic. 

   3. The characters and their qualities
   I didn’t care for the characters in this book much. They were all lacking severely in one way or another.
   A) Saf was intriguing, but so mysterious that the reader felt like they couldn’t and didn’t know hardly anything about him. 
   B) Teddy was another interesting character. He was a very well spoken and poetic character; however, he was only there for a quarter of the book and then he was gone. 
   C)Raffin & Bann were characters that were in Graceling, and that’s one reason I wanted to talk about them. In Graceling, hints were dropped that they were gay lovers. Those hints were extremely subtle, but came out full-force in Bitterblue, as did talk of a lesbian couple (whose names escape me now). As much as I love these kind of characters represented in YA lit, I question if Cashore was just doing this to fill a gap that she saw in her stories in comparison to other novels being published lately (I’m mostly directing this to the lesbian couple in Bitterblue and not Raffin and Bann). Were her characters truly lesbian or did she just make them so in order to check it off her list and market it to more readers?
   D) Katsa also makes an appearance in this book come the last quarter of the novel; however, I feel like her character is completely different. She’s much more animated and lovable. As much as I love that, I have to disagree because that is not keeping with her character from Graceling, and that should be the most important thing for a writer.
   E) Leck is one of the most disturbing characters I have read in a long while. I found myself flinching as I read things about him. Like I said in all my other reviews (Graceling and Fire), Leck once again steals the story. 
   He is the most dynamic character in the entire series. Not only did Cashore devote three books to his character, but Bitterblue put it over the edge. It’s refreshing to read a three dimensional character; but at the same time extremely unsettling. I respect Cashore because she could write his character, though disturbing as he was, so very well, but that leaves Bitterblue a two dimensional character at best. All characters pale in comparison to him. The only characters that would come close to Leck would be Fire and Brigan, in my opinion, which I think is disappointing. Cashore was more obsessed with her villain than her protagonist which I think should say something to a writer.

   Final Notes:
   Though Cashore had some great lines (specifically the very first line of the book and a couple of lines Teddy said), the whole book was longwinded and needlessly complex. I didn’t enjoy it, and I was extremely disheartened by that since I had been looking forward to this book for months. I wanted it to be awesome, but sadly, it missed its mark.

I gave this book 1 star on my Goodreads

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