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.
Why I Started Reading This Book and Final Verdict
After reading Graceling, I dare you to not want to read about Bitterblue. Knowing that Bitterblue would have her own story while I was reading Graceling only increased my desire to read Bitterblue. I wanted to see how this brave young girl would grow up to be queen. I think my only disappointment was that the book ended. I would have loved to keep reading.
I have been asked a few times about the order in which this series can be read, so I thought I’d address it here. Each book is written so that it can stand on its own without needing previous books. However, there are definite Graceling spoilers in Bitterblue, and there are certain aspects of Bitterblue that will have more meaning having read Fire. The cover of Bitterblue says that it is a sequel to Graceling and a companion book to Fire. This is an accurate statement, though I’ve also seen Fire described as a prequel (which it kind of is). So while, yes, you can read these books in any way that you wish, I’d suggest sticking to the order in which they were published.
Kristin Cashore said at a book signing that she hopes she will be able to revisit some of her characters (with that, I assume, comes continuing the series), and after finishing Bitterblue, I desperately hope that she will be able to, too. I do not think that Bitterblue’s story is over. Or at least, I do not want it to be over. Her story does seem to be left more open than the previous two books.
I don’t know that there is much to say here. Kristin Cashore is an amazing writer, but then, if you’re thinking about reading Bitterblue because you’ve already read Graceling and Fire, you know this. Bitterblue is a necessary read if you have read and liked the previous Graceling realm books. It is a damn good book (I can’t attest to whether it was worth the wait, however, since I didn’t pick up any of these books until all three were out; I assume it was). And if for some reason you haven’t read any of Kristin Cashore’s books, yet, do it now. Just don’t start with this one; start at the beginning.
Despite really liking this book, and not wanting it to be over, I find myself with little to say, so perhaps it will be better if I simply list what I loved about this book. Shall we start? I loved: that Bitterblue had no Grace and that we were able to see this side of things; that this book tied the previous two books together and leaves open possibilities for future books; that we were reunited with Katsa and Po, even if they sometimes made me sad; that Bitterblue had an amazing head for math and ciphers even though this part of the book sometimes made my head hurt; that this was a story about finding truths and how to move on from painful experiences; that power comes in many different forms; that we shown how important it is to attempt to think from others’ perspectives, yet because of who we are, it is very difficult; that King Leck was so very evil and the resulting twists and turns (evil fascinates me, and is part of the reason why I love watching true crime shows, FYI); that romance in all these books is not traditional and that there are also same-sex couples — seriously, love knows no bounds; and finally, that Bitterblue always strives to be better, even when she feels like she’s a failure — fake it til you make it.