[review] Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Warning: Spoilers for Graceling follow.

Queen Bitterblue is trying to pick up the pieces of her kingdom after the death of her father Leck, but the past can not be swept aside so easily. How can Bitterblue do what is right when no one will let her see what’s wrong?

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)My love of Kristin Cashore and her Seven Kingdoms series should be pretty well known after my posts on both Graceling (review & discussion) and Fire (review & discussion).  As such, my expectations for Bitterblue were as high as my expectations have ever been. I was worried because I’d seen some lukewarm reviews, but I clung to my hope that Cashore would not disappoint.

She didn’t.

Bitterblue doesn’t have quite as much action as Graceling and Fire, but it contains my favourite qualities of Cashore’s works which is that she addresses contemporary issues in a fantasy setting.  Like, serious hard-hitting issues that many novels shy away from: self-mutilation, bisexuality and homosexuality, female masturbation, and suicide. She treats all of these topics with sensitivity and class. I was especially impressed by her normalization of bisexuality and homosexuality and female masturbation.

Another impressive element is how REAL everything feels. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that the characters are made of words rather than flesh and blood. They are so well-rounded with their good qualities and their bad qualities and their in-between qualities. No one is perfect. No one is all evil (though Leck comes pretty close). Not only are the characters real, but the story is so real it doesn’t feel like a story. It doesn’t feel like there’s a beginning and a climax and a set amount of plot threads and points and a conclusion. Some books I’ve read feel like there’s a checklist that the author feels they have to get through, but it never felt that way with Bitterblue. Instead, I felt as if Cashore was showing a life instead of a story. And as much as this meant the ending left me with an empty sort of feeling in my chest, I am in awe of how Cashore decided to tell this story.

Finally, I just want to add how much I respect Kristin Cashore as a writer and a person. In her acknowledgements she discusses the flaws in Graceling when it comes to disability politics, and in Bitterblue I see that she tried to make amends for her treatment of disabilities in Graceling as much as she could. I love that she is continuing to strive to improve her treatment of these important topics. She is continuing to try to better her understanding of the world, and in all honesty I see her as a wonderful role model for young (and not so young) people everywhere.

Books with similar aspects

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Shadow and bone by Leigh Bardugo

recommended to fantasy fans and women looking for some inspiration

not recommended to fans of cookie cutter stories

Don’t just take my word for it!

“With an incandescent charm and truly unforgettable characters, Bitterblue makes an excellent addition to any shelf.” – Angel @ Mermaid Visions

“While Bitterblue was a good read, it’s not exactly up to par with the standards set by Graceling and Fire.” -April @ Good Books and Good Wine

“For me this was a very satisfying conclusion to the Seven Kingdoms series. The only thing that would make me more satisfied would be the announcement that more books were going to be written.” – Jen @ Almost Grown-Up

Did I miss your review? Link me and I’ll add yours! Add me on goodreads (be sure to let me know in the comments that you’ve added me) to have your reviews linked automatically.

About megtao

Student. Writer. Nerdfighter. Fights for love, justice, and awesome.
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14 Responses to [review] Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

  1. Candice says:

    Out of all your reviews, I’m gonna go ahead and say this is the best one I’ve yet to read. You really captured all the best qualities of Bitterblue and summed it up nicely.

    “the story is so real it doesn’t feel like a story” – yes, yes, yes! I loved that it wasn’t really a ‘story” so much as it was a realistic view of Bitterblue’s life. She didn’t have one “quest” to go on; there were dozens of things going on, just like there are in real life. Glad you loved it so much and major kudos for writing such an amazing review!

  2. Amanda says:

    I love how you focus on your feelings in the book rather than specific events of the book – so I don’t feel spoiled at all here. This is very well-written and your review has convinced me that I really need to go back and re-read Graceling so that I can then read Fire and Bitterblue!

  3. Tamara says:

    HERE IS MY REVIEW AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN COMMENT (sniff) http://kaitlynfall.livejournal.com/160866.html

    • megtao says:

      I haven’t been on lj in like a month, so it’s not that I’m ignoring it, it’s that I haven’t had time to go on lj and catch up :P

  4. Yes this! “Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that the characters are made of words rather than flesh and blood.” – I quite liked that aspect of Bitterblue. I also wish I had loved it as much as you, but alas. :-( Still, your review makes me want to cheer because it is very, very well written and insightful!

  5. I, too, was a little worried by all the mediocre reviews for Bitterblue, but I’m still excited to read it. I’m not sure I could be anything BUT excited to read a Kristin Cashore book! I need to find a big chunk of time and get started on it. Kristin Cashore could rewrite the PHONE BOOK and I’d be first in line to read it. I think she’s amazing.

  6. I’m so glad you loved Bitterblue alongside the others. I fangirled so hard when I met her at BEA, babbling about what an inspiration she is to me, etc etc. Great review as always, love how you point out how she takes the modern issues and incorporates them. LOVE that.

  7. I really need to get my hands on Bitterblue now! It’s been on my ‘to buy’ list forever, but your review has definitely convinced me to order it. Sounds like it might be even better than Graceling, which is really saying something!

  8. Pingback: Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore | Tripping Over Books

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