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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. This is the kind of heroine we need more of -- she's strong and intelligent, but she's also haunted by memories of her cruel father and her fear of being like him. And she has the right balance of insecurity, strength, fear and determination to make her feel like a real teenage girl who has been thrust into a royal role, not a whiny "rebellious princess."

And the supporting cast is just as good. Katsa and Po are both here, older and a bit wiser, but with plenty of passion and fire -- and we have fun characters like Teddy the truthseeking dictionary-maker, or the snappish librarian Death.

Cashore's elegant, polished prose ("her heart was a bright burst of sadness and shame") has just the right amount of grittiness, with moments of sharp horror when someone reminisces about the bad old days under Leck. And she underlies the slow-burning suspense with a sense of bittersweetness, which sometimes flowers into outright sorrow.

"Bitterblue" is a wrenchingly beautiful piece of work, bringing readers back to the darkly brilliant world of the Gracelings. It was a long time coming, but worth the wait.
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on April 19, 2014
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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on December 4, 2013
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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on February 4, 2014
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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on October 28, 2014
A brilliant book with a deep twist that will stay with you for years to come. Also, Bitterblue herself is the most hilarious character.
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on August 18, 2015
I loved this book. While the others were amazing, this book showed how much things had changed and how badly Leck screwed up the world
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on February 21, 2015
It was amazing, all the action and romance, it os one of my favourite books and probably will be for a long time.
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on October 29, 2014
More please Kristin! That says it all :)
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on April 19, 2016
Loved this book with its many twists and turns and multiple love affairs. Wonderful science fiction fantasy series.
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