Books I've Read

Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Greetings one and all! I have to say, I am very excited about this review, partly because I really enjoyed this book, but mostly because reading it helped me accomplish one of my reading goals for the year. The goal in question – finish all the series that I start this year. I still have a whole backlog of series from previous years to rack up, but at least this one is done!


Let’s just take a quick second to admire the cover art on this one. Isn’t it beautiful! I’ve really loved the covers on this series, but this one is definitely my favorite.

Oh, and by the way, there will be spoilers in here for both Graceling and Bitterblue, although not for Fire. So read with caution if you haven’t read the books.

Bitterblue takes place eight years after Graceling and follows the story of – you guessed it – Bitterblue, the young Queen of Monsea. She became queen at the tender age of ten, after the events at the end of Graceling when her father, King Leck, was killed. Bitterblue has a tough situation. Her father was a Graceling, with the ability to control the minds of his subjects. He could make them do or think anything he wanted them too. Monsea has been crippled by what he had done and Bitterblue is still struggling to deal with the aftermath, even eight years later. Her advisers were all victims of Leck’s abuse and each of them has dealt with it in different ways, from drinking heavily to just shutting out the world when necessary.

What makes this book work is the characterization of Bitterblue. She is a very strong young woman who desperately wants to do something to fix what her father had done, even though she has no idea how to do that. She has been sheltered by her advisors, and because of this, really doesn’t know much about the reality of day to day life in her kingdom. She starts to sneak out at night, dressed as a commoner, to see what life is like on the streets. While on one of her trips, she meets two young thieves, Teddy and Saf. With their help, she slowly starts to piece together the truth of what life is like. There are a lot of people out there who are trying to destroy history, particularly the history of Leck’s reign. Books have been burned, people have been murdered – all for telling the truth about what had happened. And some people just seem like they’ve gone completely mad. This was another thing that I liked – how realistic the situations were. If a kingdom was trying to recover from the sort of abuse that Leck subjected them to, it would probably end up with problems like Monsea. This is what makes Bitterblue such a likeable character too – she truly cares about her people and wants to help them as much as she can.

Our old friends from Graceling, Katsa and Po, both turn up to help and it’s nice to see them again. I was glad that they didn’t just abandon Bitterblue on the throne when they set her up as queen eight years ago. Here’s something that’s a little strange though – there is no real villain. Sure, there are a couple of people who do some not-so-good things, but there’s no big bad guy that has to be stopped. In fact, the big bad guy, Leck, is already dead. It was an entirely different story structure, which I really liked. In the end, everything isn’t perfect. All the problems aren’t magically solved, but they are set on a course to be much better than they were before.

If I had one complaint, it would be that the ending of the book seemed to come too early. There were many chapters left after what I took to be the big climactic scene and it felt like it dragged on a little after that. I think I had similar feelings about both Graceling and Fire, so that might just be Cashore’s style. In any case, this book was a well written ending to a well written series. If you haven’t read them, do check them out. They are definitely worth the read.

In case you are interested, you can find my review of Graceling at this post, and my review of Fire at this post.

Also, don’t forget to vote for the next part of Heritage! The poll for this week can be found here.

Books I've Read

Book Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

I’m going a little bit out of order with my book reviews this week – it’s taking me so long to get these reviews done, I start to forget some of the details. So before I forget this one, I wanted to go ahead and knock it out.


This book is the prequel to Graceling, which I read earlier this year for the podcast. Set in the kingdom of the Dells, it tells the story of Fire, the last human monster in the world.

I need to stop and explain the whole monster thing. With all the different animals (humans included), there are normal ones and monsters. The monsters are usually much more brightly colored (there was a kitten that was bright gold and green, for example) and in some cases, they are much more violent. With humans, it gives them certain powers, particularly mind control. They are also so strikingly beautiful, it is hard for them to go anywhere without attracting feelings of extreme envy or lust.

Back to the story. Fire was named for her brilliantly colored hair (it’s red and gold – yeah, basically looks like fire). Her quiet life living with one of the old king’s ex-advisors is shattered when a poacher tries to attack her. There is war brewing on the horizon and somehow this attack is connected to a grander scheme. A host of other events leads Fire to come to the King’s City, where she has to meet the new king, Nash, and his brother, Brigan. She also has to confront her past, which is the part of the book that I enjoyed the most.

Fire’s father, Cansrel, was the closest advisor to Nash’s father, King Nax. The two of them engaged in drugs and debauchery, leading the kingdom to the edge of ruin. Cansrel was the instigator, and at his heart, a very cruel man. Fire thinks that she is probably the only thing that her father ever loved. Cansrel’s legacy leaves the people of King’s City with a bad taste in their mouths in regards to Fire – they expect her to act the same way he did. As Fire gets more and more involved with the plans to protect the city (and uses her powers more than she ever did before), she is constantly afraid that she will become like her father. She loved him, but she doesn’t want to be him. This inner conflict was what made the book for me.

Sure, there’s a love story, a sort of love triangle (or love rectangle, at times). Brigan is a really well-written character – his journey from hating Fire on sight, to falling in love with her, was believable and very well done. Readers of Graceling will recognize another character in this story – Leck, the future king of Monsea. Here, you get to see what his powers really can do and it is terrifying. He is an excellent villian in both books.

This is a very good series. I am definitely going to hunt down Bitterblue, the third book in this trilogy, once I finish with all the Harry Potter books.

Books I've Read

Two for the Price of One

Since I missed doing a review yesterday (stupid stomach virus), you get two reviews today. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?

GracelingFirst up – Graceling by Kristin Cashore. This was a book recommendation from my podcast co-host, Jess. We discussed it on an episode not too long ago, but I haven’t had a chance to talk about it here. The story is about Katsa, a young girl living in her uncle’s castle. She has a Grace, which is an innate talent that some people in this land are born with. You can tell the Graced by their eyes, which are two different colors. Katsa has one green eye and one blue eye. Graces can be simple, like a strong talent for cooking or navigating a ship. But Katsa’s Grace is killing. Her uncle uses her as his enforcer to bully the various nobles in his kingdom into following his orders. Katsa hates this and organizes her own group, the Council, to try and counteract some of the injustice in the land.

Then the father of a neighboring king goes missing. Katsa and her people set out to rescue him, but find someone else trying to do the same thing – Po, the grandson of the kidnapped man. Po is a prince, but he’s also Graced. Katsa believes that his Grace is also fighting. Together, they set out to discover the reasons for the kidnapping and, in the process, discover a dark conspiracy lurking in another kingdom that is growing. They also discover that their Graces are not what they thought they were.

The book was very well written. I liked how the Graces worked. Katsa is a tough character with a very hard exterior, but that makes it all the more sweet when she falls in love with Po and learns how to let someone into her heart. There are two other books in this series, and I will be getting them as soon as I finish a few other books on my to-read pile.

parishNext review – The Parish and the Hill by Mary Doyle Curran. This is a book that I read for school and thoroughly enjoyed. The book tells the story of Mary, a young girl growing up as an Irish immigrant to America at the turn of the century. She talks about her family and their traditions, but also what coming to America has meant to them. They live in a small town called Irish Parish, where her grandfather is a pillar of the community. Each member of her family has different ways of coping with the changes in their lives, with the discrimination they all face because they are Irish. They go through poverty, barely scraping by, but deep down, there is a strong connection that keeps them together. Eventually they move to Money Hole Hill, another town that is a bit more upscale. Mary’s family has a hard time fitting in, due to the tensions between the “shanty Irish” (the ones who keep the Irish traditions alive) and the “lace curtain Irish” (the ones turning their back on their roots and trying to become like their Yankee neighbors).

This book is autobiographical and very good. I learned a lot reading it and it really makes you think about the bonds that tie people together, whether it’s family, community, or a shared heritage or tradition.