A lot of people seem to be upset that this book doesn’t follow the storyline of Katsa and Po. Well DER! It’s title is “Bitterblue”, the main character is Bitterblue… It takes place some years after the last time we saw both Katsa and Po in Fire.
As a story, I did like this book but goodness, it took a long time to warm up. It’s a very slow burn of a story with tension/mystery building up to the last few chapters of the book where Bitterblue finds out the dark history of Monsea when it was under the rule of her father (Leck). A lot of of the story beforehand is her trying to find out, unsuccessfully, and investigate the city over which she rules.
You do get a foreboding sense as the tale continues that Leck’s (now Bitterblue’s) advisers were more involved in the evil king’s doings than initially thought.
I liked the romance aspect of the book between Bitterblue and Sapphire, as brief as it was. (Awwww… look, their names are both blue! Squee!) I hope we see both of these characters return in more happy circumstances.
The first thing that turned me off about this book was Cashore’s approach to gay couples. I just didn’t think it was necessary to frame it in that way… Bann and Raffin are gay. So is Brenn. And? So? Who really cares? It seems that we cannot get away from reality in a fantasy novel. One would have hoped that being gay would not be an issue in a fantasy story. Oh well.
Secondly, and this has nothing to do with the story but more the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Cashore apologises for giving Po some sort of super-human ability to overcome his disability – thus implying that “he couldn’t be a whole person and also be disabled”. WHAT ROT! Po’s Grace of being able to see with his mind after he loses his real vision is hardly superhuman and not without it’s limitations as clearly written in the story. Cashore’s advisers in this were clearly having an overly politically correct day.
On the whole, Bitterblue is a great read and a great continuation of the world that Cashore created.