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Book Review: Bitterblue By Kristin Cashore
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Bitterblue by Kristin CashoreBitterblue
Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle Edition
By Kristin Cashore
Dial Books
Release Date: May 1, 2012

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – lucky because this book is cover-to-cover enchantment. Cashore’s richly drawn characters, lush settings, and gorgeously detailed descriptions paint a vivid picture in the mind’s eye of Queen Bitterblue’s world, a world still healing eight years after the death of King Leck. This extended healing period is most definitely not due to the loss of a beloved king, though. Oh no. Quite the opposite, for King Leck was a mad sadist with the extraordinary Grace (that’s ‘superpower’ to us mortal geeks) to get deep inside people’s heads and make them do stuff. Bad stuff. We’re talking the most heinous, unforgivable crimes imaginable – and quite a few that would never pass through a sane mind even in its most depraved nanosecond. And he did these things purely for his own pleasure.

Bitterblue, made Queen of Monsea at the tender age of ten following the murder of her mother and the subsequent death of her father, has an awful lot of papers to contend with daily. Her most trusted advisors keep her buried in the most mind-numbing, soporific work of running the kingdom. It bores Bitterblue to no end, for she is only eighteen years old and yearns for an end to the tedium. This leads her to become curious about the other aspects of Monsea, the city she can barely see from her castle tower. She starts questioning her advisors, the men who’ve been around to care for her and help run the kingdom for her entire life, and they become increasingly cryptic in their answers and erratic in their behavior. Something’s afoot and no one will tell Bitterblue what the heck is going on.

It’s only when the queen begins sneaking out of the castle at night, slipping out into her city disguised under a “borrowed” hooded cloak that the world around her opens up. She stumbles upon a story house, a pub where storytellers recount the events of King Leck’s rein, of children and adults who’ve gone missing, and other sordid tales. Some of these are true, as Bitterblue recognizes them as hazy memories from her own childhood.

During one of these secret late night excursions, she meets and befriends two thieves who open her eyes to the very graphic reality of life in post-Leck Monsea. This causes Bitterblue to scrutinize everyone she knows, or thinks she knows. She realizes she’s being lied to by everyone. Add to that the Council, comprised of her dearest lifelong friends and cousins whose main mission is to overthrow unjust kings and suddenly Bitterblue, who’s not entirely certain that her kingdom is a just one even under her rule, worries that she herself might be deposed.

What follows is a tornado of puzzles, ciphers, murders, suicides, and madness. Truth-seeking becomes a dangerous activity and Bitterblue must somehow find the strength within her to see her kingdom through this time of great upheaval so their healing can begin in earnest. Will she succeed? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

An awesome tale of betrayal, mystery, anguish, exquisite beauty, and compassion, Bitterblue is a delightful adventure to read. It is Cashore’s sequel to Graceling and companion to Fire. Bitterblue was just released on May 1, 2012 and promises to include an index of characters as well as detailed illustrations not included in the advance copy, which I’m sure will further enhance the pleasure of reading this book. Learn more about Kristin Cashore and the world of her beautiful Gracelings here.

[Editor’s Note: Geeks of Doom is currently giving away a copy of Bitterblue, along with a $50 Visa gift card, to one lucky reader. Follow this link for your chance to win.]

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