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.(Source: Goodreads)
I am such a fan girl of this series and Cashore’s writing. I knew I would love Bitterblue before I ever cracked the cover, but I just didn’t know the why yet. Each book in this loosely connected series is very unique. The only consistency is strong women and the perfect men for those women. Each woman, Katsa, Fire and Bitterblue, has something different that makes them memorable. I was very excited to find out what that was about Bitterblue.
She is 18 years old now and is trying to get a rein on her kingdom. She has been ruling through regents up till this point, but she wants to become more involved. She grows weary of the falsities of court life and suspects that her advisers are keeping things from her, so she sneaks out at night to discover the true state of her kingdom. What she finds is frightening and mesmerizing at the same time. She easily sucked into the story houses that share truths and tall tales of when Leck ruled. While skulking around she stumbles into a band of truthseekers, Teddy, Saf and their sisters.
With the help of the truthseekers, trusted revolutionaries, and no help from her advisers, Bitterblue strives to uncover the buried truths from Leck’s reign. She really believes the “truth will set them free.” Her journey had the history teacher in me all a flutter. Bitterblue is the poster child of an Enlightened Despot. She works so hard to provide for the literacy of her nation, truth and to right the wrongs and fix an unjust tax system. The truthseekers fit the revolutionary mold. They are young, idealistic and pure in their goals. The established revolutionaries, Katsa and Po, are much more pragmatic. As they continue their work of supporting coups that overthrow bad rulers, they also evaluate the kingdoms ability to carry out its aims and worry about failure (history examples: Uganda and Cuba).
Bitterblue is drawn to a tapestry of Fire in the library. It really comforted her to look at it. It made me widen my thinking about their possible connection. They are both women that had evil fathers, though these men showed love toward their daughters. It is very difficult for them to wrestle with that love and all the horrible things that parent did. They have to redefine how people see them and judge them for their actions alone.
There is a romantic interest, Saf. But I love how it is secondary and muted. Bitterblue and Saf’s interactions evolve and grow organically weaving in and out through the larger story. I suspect Saf may have a book coming in the land of the monsters, if we are lucky. If you haven’t, you really must read this series. It is one my favorite of all time. Bitterblue will find her way into your heart.
Twists and turns of palace intrigue seek to undo Bitterblue’s quest for truth and healing.