Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Series: Graceling #3
This review will contain spoilers for Graceling.
It breaks my heart to be doing this, because I love this series. I loved the world, the story and the characters of both Graceling and Fire. But this book just doesn’t work.
Bitterblue was a book I was very excited about. I knew it was going to be connected to both the previous novels while also being a standalone and that it followed Bitterblue trying to be a queen and get her kingdom back on track after Leck — her psychotic, mind-controlling father who was killed by Katsa — fucked things up royally.
But unfortunately, the awesomeness I was expecting and anticipating never came.
The book is, quite frankly, a series of introducing plots and sub-plots that never get resolved. It didn’t have the simple yet brilliant story of Graceling or it’s kickass protagonists. It didn’t have the complexity and political intrigue of Fire or the emotion that came with the novel. And Bitterblue’s narrative is so dull that if it weren’t for Po being present for such a large portion of the book, I would’ve started skimming halfway through. It was only my love for him that kept me reading.
The main plot of the book is regarding the mystery of what Leck did in his time. But that plot gets overshadowed by multiple sub-plots which get covered up by more sub-plots. I can accept that the author was trying to create the confusion that Bitterblue felt, in her writing. But at some point that confusion became too much.
Especially when so many things were left unresolved and so many sub-plots had no relevance to the main story.
One such plot was Katsa and the Council trying to find a way to dethrone a king. Not only was it glossed over for the most part, it was also left completely unresolved. Another one about Bitterblue’s crown being stolen could’ve been cut out and it would’ve had no impact on the novel at all. Both of these sub-plots were unnecessary and there to… fill up pages, I guess? Even though this book is plenty big and could’ve done with fewer pages.
Saf, the supposed male protagonist, was introduced and then, about halfway through, dismissed. He was given a stupid sub-plot so that he could show up every once in a while to remind us that he still existed. But he had no relevance and his and Bitterblue’s romance was poorly developed at best. I guess Cashore had to ignore him so she could focus on some other unnecessary sub-plot she wasn’t planning on resolving.
What else? Oh, yes. I couldn’t get behind Bitterblue. She was okay initially, but then turned out to be a bratty, spoiled child who was ignorant of everything from the condition of the kingdom to navigating her own freaking castle.
Honestly, what had she been doing the eight years since Leck’s death? Did she prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a deep sleep that could only be broken when Kristin Cashore decided to write the novel? …That seems unlikely since she did age. Maybe she was comatose!
Whatever the case, she was oblivious to everything and it made no fucking sense.
Only redeeming qualities this book has, is that it’s beginning was okay, showing us about Bitterblue’s mother’s struggle, and made you think you were gonna get a promising and interesting mystery; and that the things that were wrapped up were done fairly well. And it has Po and Katsa in it, which I’m very happy about.
But overall, Bitterblue comes off as a novel that was published before it could be properly edited and I am thankful that all the books in this series are standalones because that means I can still enjoy Garceling and Fire.