By: Kristin Cashore
Published By: Dial
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Page Count: 545
Source: Amazon Vine UK ARC
Audience: Young Adult - Fantasy
For a book that I have waited so long for, I might say I was a tiny bit disappointed. But I feel like this tied together Graceling and Fire really quite well - I previously felt like they were far too different, and I didn't like Fire all that much.
The story is set 9 years after Katsa rescued Bitterblue from the evil King Leck, killing him and in the process establishing Bitterblue as the monarch of Monsea. Her inheritance is a damaged one - no one is quite sure exactly what happened under the rule of Leck, except that people went missing, others have horrifying partial memories, and no one knows the truth or wants to look too hard for it.
Leck's power of manipulating minds and erasing memories has a pivotal role in this story. In essence, this book is about a damaged kingdom healing, and a young girl doing her best to understand what has happened personally to her, and to her kingdom.
I spent a lot of the book as frustrated as Bitterblue was; things didn't add up, seemingly random events somehow were linked, and I had no idea why people were behaving as they did. This does clear up by the end, but it meant that I felt like the story line blundered along, blindly bumping into dead ends. I know that this was half the point, to make me feel the confusion the characters were, but I didn't race to keep reading. As the confusion cleared, I did become keener to carry on, and I was both pleased and horrified to get to the truth of what happened.
I was glad to see Katsa and Po take an active role in this book, but Katsa spent a lot of time away. In some ways, it was almost as if Katsa had to bow out of this story so that Bitterblue could be the leading lady. I missed her though. Po's role was developed well, and the implications of his fall at the end of Graceling were explored thoroughly.
All in all, I feel like this was more enjoyable than Fire, less enjoyable than Graceling, and tied everything up quite well while leaving the reader with some thoughts for the future. Bitterblue grew into her role as Queen very convincingly, and while I feel the ending of the trilogy was 'right' it has left me feeling a little sad too.
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.