It’s been 8 years since the events in Graceling and that Bitterblue has become Queen of Monsea. But Monsea is still struggling with what Leck did to it and Bitterblue doesn’t have much idea of what is actually happening in her country. That is, until she decides one night to just slip outside the castle and head into town. The more she discovers, though, and the more questions she asks, the more secrets she seems to uncover.
After the pure delights that Fire and Graceling are, Bitterblue was pretty disappointing. The pacing didn’t work for me at all, but even more than that, Bitterblue didn’t work for me – she was just way too emo that I could really relate.
For most of the book, I just wanted to shake Bitterblue, in the hopes that she would grow a bit of sense in the process. Really, that girl goes around complaining that she doesn’t understand anything and that nobody explains things to her but she never actually talks to anybody about anything. The person she comes closest to is Giddon – and even to him she doesn’t say anything, she’s just being cryptic. And I would understand that if she didn’t trust anybody, but she’s surrounded by people who do their utmost to help her (like Po, Giddon, Katsa, Raffin, Bann, Helda, Teddy, …), even though they do have a lot on their plates themselves, and instead of accepting that help, she just whines that nobody understands her and that she’s oh so alone and nobody tells her anything and instead she just has to do paperwork etc etc etc.
And yes, she’s 18, she has every right to be emo and maybe I’m too old for that shit, but really – who wants to read that? If Bitterblue had openly discussed what worried her around page 100, the whole thing could have been resolved by page 200. Instead the whole thing drags on.
It does actually drag because the pacing sucks. It is only on the last 100 pages or so that there’s any kind of tension and that I became curious and got pulled into the story. Even though it was quite clear how things would end, right from the get-go. I don’t know if Cashore had meant there to be twists in this book, but in any case for me there weren’t actually any.
The book does have its moments – especially with the supporting characters: Giddon turns out to be actually great now that he’s an adult and Raffin and Bann are amazing anyway. Po is still great, though I didn’t feel his relationship with Katsa that much anymore. But in the end, it just couldn’t keep up with the other two books.
Summarising: If you love Graceling and Fire, you’ll end up reading this anyway – but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t really deliver.