Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Oh this is such a lovely book in so many ways. To start, there’s this cover with the attractive keys on it. There’s also an appendix filled with wonderful illustrations and a list of characters by the castle librarian, who basically the best character ever. There’s love, there’s mystery, there’s intrigue, and there’s a big fucking castle where it all takes place.
Kristin Cashore’s first book, Graceling, is one of my favorite YA novels EVER, and it introduced the character of Bitterblue, who at nine years old becomes the queen of her country (Monsea) when SPOILER ALERT: her insane sadistic father is killed.
Bitterblue follows the now-18-year-old queen through the challenges of trying to be a good monarch to a broken (and barely healing) country, in the midst of lies and deception and mysteries and a past that never really goes away. At night, Bitterblue escapes the drudgery of day-to-day queening (and really, there is a LOT of paperwork involved) by sneaking out and seeing the streets of her city. She meets a boy with purple eyes. He’s pretty awesome.
This is a stand-alone novel, but I think it is best enjoyed if you read Graceling first, because Po and Katsa are back in a MAJOR way, and you won’t feel the ~*~*~ if you don’t already know them. That said, as much as I loved Graceling, I think Bitterblue is a better book. Bitterblue is far more complex, the writing is stronger (in my opinion - I prefer the florid descriptions of castle life and art to the very sparse and simple style of Graceling, but your mileage may vary). It’s also a pretty long book, which I really appreciated - I waited for over a year to read this book, and I was glad to be able to spend a long time in Bitterblue’s castle, and to visit a lot of new and old characters.
This book deals a lot with truths and secrets. Cyphers, codes, and keys are all integral to the story. These are all plusses for me, since there’s nothing I love more than a good mystery, particularly if I get to hear the full story in the end. I would be the tuning in every Friday night to watch a Robert Stack in a show called Solved Mysteries. Don’t get me wrong - not everything in this book wraps up neatly or is perfectly resolved, but the big questions are answered.
Recommended for any and all fans of YA, fantasy, strong female characters, good books.