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Bitterblue [Hardcover]

Kristin Cashore , Ian Schoenherr
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 1 2012 Graceling Realm Books
The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only 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, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

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Bitterblue + Fire + Graceling
Price For All Three: CDN$ 36.74

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  • Graceling CDN$ 11.69

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Review

"Some authors can tell a good story; some can write well. Cashore is one of the rare novelists who do both. Thrillingly imagined and beautifully executed, "Bitterblue" stands as a splendid contribution in long literary tradition."
(New York Times Book Review)

"A story that transcends the genre with its emotional and philosophical weight."
(BCCB (starred review))

"Devastating and heartbreaking...those willing to take the risk will--like Bitterblue--achieve something even more precious: a hopeful beginning."
(Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

"Readers will gallop through [Bitterblue], eager to catch up on beloved characters and hopeful that the Seven Kingdoms can at last find peace. There are astonishing and sometimes heartbreaking discoveries...Buy all three volumes, in multiple copies."
(VOYA (starred review))

"Cashore's imagined world is brilliantly detailed and brimming with vibrant and dynamic characters."
(School Library Journal (starred review))

"Fans of...intricate political fantasies will relish this novel of palace intrigue."
(Publishers Weekly (starred review))

About the Author

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, and she has worked as a dog runner, a packer in a candy factory, an editorial assistant, a legal assistant, and a freelance writer. She has lived in many places (including Sydney, New York City, Boston, London, Austin, and Jacksonville, Florida), and she currently lives in the Boston area. Her epic fantasy novels set in the Graceling Realm--Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue--have won many awards and much high praise, including picks as ALA Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editors Choice, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. In addition, Graceling was shortlisted for the William C. Morris Debut Award and Fire is an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Winner.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A queen's duty May 4 2012
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
A lot of fantasy books end with the defeat of the evil Emperor/King/Dark Lord. Everybody celebrates, and everything is all puppies and flowers.

What most authors don't address is what comes AFTER the bad guy's defeat, and how the good guys rebuild. But that is what Kristin Cashore's "Bitterblue" is all about -- a teenage queen struggling to heal a kingdom still traumatized by her father's rule, with wrenching emotions and likably quirky characters all over the place.

For thirty-five years, Monsea was tormented by the evil King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen, but the kingdom is still haunted by her father -- from the bizarre (a clock with fifteen hours) to the horrific (his kidnapping of children). And every night she sneaks out of the castle to mingle with the commonfolk, including a young Lienid "thief" named Saf, who has an unknown Grace.

But despite Bitterblue's efforts to heal the scars left by Leck, someone is trying to stop her. She's digging too deeply into old crimes committed by her father, and someone -- for some reason -- wants those secrets kept buried. And to stop the queen, this conspiracy will not only strike out at her, but Saf and his friends....

Moral dilemmas, ciphers, rebellions and a quest to find the ugly truth -- "Bitterblue" is very much a thinking person's fantasy novel. It's all about the aftermath of a tyrant's rule, and all the secrets and treachery that are left over once the good guys finally take over... assuming they do. There are always more bad guys waiting, and sometimes there is no good guy to take over the government.

And that is what Bitterblue has to grapple with.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It was good but... April 19 2014
Format:Paperback
I'll start off that I did like this book. However (spoilers) The way it ended left me feeling a little unresolved, as if I were reading an unfinished journal. I found relationships weren't developed far enough, that growth occurred, but didn't finalize. In fact each character, main, or previously main, mentioned in this book had little development in relationship growth. I suppose you could say that the book had almost a realistic element to the relations, but again I'm a fan of development and here I felt none. It was also a little long in the progression of the big mystery of who was behind the attacks and burnings. I had a lot of suspicion of her inner circle far before it was confirmed and I felt that the plot following this mystery was dragged out. It seemed a little obvious as soon as you found out the inner circle lied to her about the statistics of literate people and their belittling Bitterblue for wanting to change it. A good read, but you could skip much of the narrative, and I was truly impatient to see where her relationship with Sapphire went, and when it ended with a whimper, I was a little dissatisfied.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read. Feb. 4 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An enjoyable curl-up-on-the-couch read. Although not my favourite of the 3 Graceling books, it is still satisfying and original and a great follow-up on the Leck story.
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3.0 out of 5 stars good character but lacking in purpose Dec 4 2013
By Ophelia
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Bitter blue is a great character. But she is slightly underwhelming and sometimes boring. The story goes in multiple directions and takes a long time to get to the point. I was disappointed in the lack of time she spent with sapphire. And felt he was kinda an ass to her. Not sure how this book made sense. Loved the first book though.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  425 reviews
223 of 241 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Books, Three Styles May 9 2012
By Caitlin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After reading the negative reviews on this novel, I wanted to set the record straight for those considering reading it.

First and foremost, this is Kristin Cashore's third novel, an extension of the stories begun in Graceling and Fire. These books tell the stories of two wildly different young women: Katsa, a Graced killer, and Fire, a beautiful human Monster. Each of these first two books differs greatly in tone, since Fire is a much more fragile girl than Katsa, who is wildly independent and self-sufficient. Bitterblue is named for the main character, Queen Bitterblue, who is yet another unique heroine. The books do not need to be read in order for readers to enjoy the stories, though this order does present some unique insights into the development of Leck's character.

Fans of Cashore's work (myself included) have been anticipating Bitterblue for a couple of years now, and I think that many readers, especially teens, were expecting Bitterblue to be as action-packed as the first two novels. These readers may find themselves disappointed, as this is the tale of a queen who (mostly) plays it safe, remains within her city, and has no special talent for fighting or mind control. Aside from having been born queen, Bitterblue is a normal human being, which is actually rather refreshing, since readers are not Gracelings or Monsters themselves. It gives us an idea of what it feels like to muddle through the Seven Kingdoms world without special, inborn talents. Though this change of character yields very different results from her first two books, it demonstrates Cashore's stylistic nimbleness and prevents her from following the same formulaic, cookie-cutter structures as other authors. I think that many of the people who dislike this book do so because they anticipated a series like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, in which the story is one continuous arc unified by a single main character. This is not Cashore's yarn and I, for one, love her for it.

On the other hand, one way in which all three characters are similar is their sexual freedom, which is refreshing and necessary for young women to see and understand. As twenty-something woman who has spent her fair share of time feeling that sexuality was for boys only, I can honestly say that the care with which Cashore treats the topic of young feminine sexuality is careful, honest, and liberating. Very few YA authors allow female characters to actively participate in their own sexuality, which is too bad. In our post-feminist age, the repression of women's sexuality serves as a patriarchal yoke under which women still struggle despite our supposedly liberated status. All of Cashore's heroines make active choices with regards to romantic companionship; both Fire and Katsa are presented with young men whom they could marry who are acceptable candidates in that they are rich, handsome, and friends, but the chemistry just isn't right, and so each young woman walks away. Meanwhile, Katsa, Fire, and Bitterblue all pursue matches who are men they truly respect and with whom they feel a compatibility of spirit, regardless of rank and convenience. Furthermore, marriage is not pressed as a required state for feminine sexuality to take place, but is offered as a possible state of being for couples who feel comfortable with that level of commitment. I know that this take on marriage and sexuality will be bothersome to some readers, but I feel that this is a conversation that in our Twilight-obsessed world is too often overlooked, to the detriment of young women the world over.

The other reason why I loved Bitterblue was because it is a mind-bender. It's like reading a Sherlock Holmes novel in some ways, because little hints and clues from the very first chapter carry over throughout the remainder of the novel. Bitterblue faces betrayal in the present and specters of her family's past, and Cashore does not shy away from these touchy subjects, even though it would certainly have been easy to do so. Yes, there are certainly moments in the novel which most readers will find uncomfortable, but Cashore is willing to take her readers into the dark recesses of the human spirit in order to shed light and prove that tragic histories are not prophecies of future doom. I think that many teens with troubled pasts will find Bitterblue's struggles validating and reassuring because the novel promises that there can be peace after terror.

Overall, Cashore is an author of incredible dexterity. Her work reminds me of Tamora Pierce's writing in many ways (an author she herself claims as a source of great inspiration), and I anticipate only great things from her in the future, whatever characters and universes she chooses to bring to life.
102 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, but ultimately disappointing May 13 2012
By Dunyazad - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was very much looking forward to this book after reading Cashore's Fire and Graceling in preparation. I have to say, though, that I came away from it pretty disappointed, for a variety of reasons. (Warning: there will be spoilers here for the preceding books.) Cashore's concept is pretty ambitious: Bitterblue has grown up and is trying to rule a kingdom that had suffered under her evil, mind-controlling father for 35 years. Her advisors and many of the people around her still aren't in their right minds. Understandably, trying to function in this situation could be pretty frustrating, but I felt that Cashore brought that frustration a bit too close to the reader. It was hard to appreciate the story when many of the characters were so erratic and the protagonist was just caught in a bubble of confusion. I certainly don't mind a book that focuses on political intrigue rather than action, but the intrigues here just didn't make sense. Adding to that, I hardly recognized Bitterblue herself; she seemed like a quietly competent child when we met her last, but as an 18-year-old she seemed sort of clueless. I'm not sure what she was supposed to have been doing for the past 8 years, besides sitting under a mountain of paper, but I found it strained credibility that she had absolutely no idea about the layout of her own castle, barely remembering that her father had had an art gallery and possibly never having known the location of various more functional sub-buildings. Similarly, she had no idea who most of the people were, and had apparently been content just to sit around signing papers until the story began.

There were some promising parts, like when Bitterblue started sneaking out of the palace to interact with regular people in a way reminiscent of Disney's Princess Jasmine, because the regular people actually had reasonable personalities, unlike the palace staff. But eventually that ended, and we were back with all the crazy people in the palace. I just found the whole thing sort of frustrating, and read on because I wanted to find out how it all got resolved rather than because I was enjoying the experience. That made the book feel too long. And even the resolution wasn't particularly satisfying; it seemed anticlimactic after all the confusion and intrigues, and I didn't feel like I had really learned that much more about the mysteries of Leck's reign by the end of it. Details of the horrible things he'd done, yes, but not so much the psychology behind it.

I'll reflect on the story a bit more in the next few days, but I think my feeling of disappointment will remain.

---------

Updated to add further thoughts from the next day, with spoilers:

I think one of the problems may be that Cashore is more concerned with making comments about our world than about dealing with difficult issues in the context of her world. It's not that she doesn't face these difficult issues; characters often think about them, but I didn't really get a sense of satisfactory resolution. Here are a couple of examples:

There's a lot of focus on overthrowing monarchs who abuse their power, and on providing better systems of government for these kingdoms. Bitterblue herself reads from a book called "Monarchy is Tyranny" that her father had tried to destroy. But there's an obvious conflict here: Bitterblue herself is queen, and intends to remain queen. She realizes that this is a conflict, but doesn't really do anything about it. There's not even any suggestion of instituting a different system of government upon her death. This is in clear contrast to Fire, who sees that the power of monsters is too unpredictable and so takes difficult and decisive action to ensure that there won't be any more human monsters in the world.

In a similar vein, Cashore makes a point of emphasizing that homosexuality is okay. Bitterblue even suggests that Raffin may eventually be able to change the laws in the Middluns to allow gay marriage. But there's no real resolution to the much trickier question of what will happen when it's the king who's gay, and yet is expected to produce an heir. Of course there are various possible solutions, but these weren't really explored--and I couldn't help feeling that this was because the focus was really on our world, and not on the Seven Kingdoms. For us, it's enough to say that gay marriage should be allowed. But I'm more interested in exploring the political consequences of various decisions in their world than in listening to general moralizing, even when it's a point of view that I happen to support.

I don't know if I'm way off-base here, but there's a comment in the acknowledgements about Po's disability that really made me realize how focused Cashore is on political correctness. And when I started looking back at Bitterblue with the idea that Cashore was very concerned with political messaging, a lot of the less satisfying parts of the book seemed to make more sense to me. I think that Bitterblue isn't so much about taking a new world and seeing how it will develop on its own as it is about imposing certain attitudes from our own world into a fantasy setting, and I'm not sure that the result is entirely satisfactory.

I'd like to know what things will look like 50 years from now in the Middluns and in Monsea. There are some difficult political issues that will have to be resolved, and I don't think that the ending of Bitterblue really comes close to that resolution. The really hard decisions are left for the future.

I've seen some people say that the problem with Bitterblue is that there's too much politics and not enough action. I both agree and disagree. I think there's too much politics only because the politics isn't done very well; Cashore is stronger when she writes a more traditional quest narrative, like that in Graceling. Politics and intrigue require more nuance and shades of grey, and I didn't really see a lot of that here. There was plenty of confusion, yes, but in the end, every character was either purely good or purely bad at heart, regardless of what evils Leck may have forced them to perform. And I'd like to have seen at least the good characters making more difficult decisions: Will Raffin choose duty or love? What will happen if Bitterblue's heir turns out to be evil? (Because we saw in the prologue of Fire that Leck's evilness didn't come from childhood abuse or anything; he was literally just born that way.)

Sorry for making my additional comments longer than my original review. One thing I can say is that Bitterblue didn't leave my thoughts when I finished it: I'm still turning it over and over in my mind a day later, trying to figure out how a work that I was so excited about could have left me feeling so disappointed. I think it's a testament to Cashore's storytelling ability that I feel so strongly about this. I'd certainly encourage everyone to read Graceling and Fire.
38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cashore doesn't disappoint! May 1 2012
By The Compulsive Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's been nearly nine years since Bitterblue became queen after her tyrannical father's rule, and the kingdom of Monsea is still struggling. Monsea has undergone tremendous change, but the young queen finds herself buried under paperwork, unaware of what truly happens outside of her tower. So she sneaks out one night and goes into the city, pretending to be peasant in various taverns. It's not long before she meets Saf and Teddy, two young thieves who steal to right the wrongs of King Leck. Bitterblue befriends them and, not realizing she is their queen, the two young men open her eyes to the true state of her kingdom, and the cause for it--betrayal and deception among those Bitterblue trusts the most.

Kristin Cashore has written another magnificent novel, just as riveting and emotional as Graceling and Fire. Bitterblue is such a wonderful main character--she's inquisitive and brave, and even though she struggles with the day to day business of being queen and managing her advisers, her passion for her country and the people is genuine. Her decision to go into the city is as much of an attempt to learn more about her kingdom as it is a step of freedom made for her own sake. Throughout the novel she must deal with all sorts of inner pain and doubt when it comes to the memories of her parents, the confusing time spent with Leck, and trying to learn the truth about all of the things she doesn't understand. Saf and Teddy aren't able to help her directly with these problems, but put her on the right path towards figuring them out. With the help of trusted friends and family members, she slowly begins to uncover a conspiracy to hide what Leck did and deciphers the secrets both parents kept encrypted.

There are many twists and turns throughout the plot, plenty of skillful and (sometimes) surprising character development, and a good deal of heartbreak as Bitterblue delves into the darkest memories of Monsea in order to better understand how to help her country heal. This theme of uncovering the truth and moving beyond a legacy of pain and suffering is strong and wrought with pain, but it's executed perfectly in Cashore's skilled hand. Her writing is expressive, complex, and full of feeling. She's spectacularly talented, and the way she weaves Bitterblue's story together with the prequels Graceling and Fire is both impressive and delightful. Bitterblue is full of perfect amounts of drama, pain, emotion, humor, and romance with a stunning ending that will leave readers wondering where Cashore will take them next.

Cover Comments: I love the cover. The blue and purple are pretty, and the keys are so significant to the book. Not only does Bitterblue have to unlock secrets of her past, but she also does some literal unlocking as well. The cover is gorgeous!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing May 1 2013
By Polycarp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was very disappointed with Bitterblue. I really liked Graceling and Fire. I didn't think that either book was perfect, but I loved the two worlds that Cashore created. Bitterblue is composed almost entirely of the weak elements of the previous two books.

The whole book reads like a tortured and torturous metaphor for some deep wound. While reading, I constantly felt like every character that I met was not actually a person, but some symbol for something or someone else. The obsession with cyphers felt like like a clumsy metaphor. The characters from the other books who make an appearance here are utterly gutted of their complexity and wholeness. The only characters who actually offer any intrigue, the Truthseekers, are completely under-developed (Teddy) or lose their substance in filling our stereo-typical jerk/love interest tropes (Saf). There is really almost no plot, and the character development is almost non-existent.

And the work could not support the crushing weight of the imposition of the author's personality and worldview. The contraception and gay-rights elements felt so utterly forced, bolted-on and propaganda-ish. They take you out of Bitterblue's world and crash you into ours.

It feels like the whole book is just a vehicle for something else, and because of it, the book has almost no substance of its own. I say skip it, which is a shame, because I was really looking forward to stepping into this world again.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars long awaited let down May 4 2012
By Brittnee Diolosa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I would just like to start off saying that I am a huge fan of Kristin Cashore. I had awaited Bitterblue to be released for a while now (I even pre-ordered it) so when it finally came out I was so excited to read it. As I read it though I didn't feel the same face-paced action that I felt with Graceling and Fire. Bitterblue was a let down to me because she spent majority of her days doing Queen work. Kate's and Fire were more free in their stories to do whatever they felt like doing so there was more action and adventure...whereas Bitterblue was stuck most of the time in the castle. The plot was okay because it helped to explain what went on during Leck's reign. This book was also missing the flare of a love connection between her and Saf. I liked in the previous books Katsa+Po & Fire+Brigain...idk this book just lacked the Bitterblue+Saf.
I also hated how mostly everyone was just liars it made the plot just more confusing because the characters profiles keep changing. On the upside though you couldn't really tell where this book was going so it added mystery which is why I kept reading.
I think my favorite character would be Death. Thought his grace was pretty useful. I wouldn't b disappointed if I had a grace like his.
I really hope she writes another book just so that I'm not left hanging like how I felt after finishing Bitterblue.
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