27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Bitterblue (Seven Kingdoms Trilogy 3) (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
[Review contains spoilers for Graceling and Fire]
Eight years after Katsa defeats Leck, Bitterblue is still struggling as Queen of Monsea, dealing with the aftermath of her father's horrific 35-year reign. But despite forward-thinking policies, people cannot shake off Leck's ghost, and it seems that even dead, he has a strange hold over them. With mysteries no one can answer - attempts on her life, persistent illiteracy, strange night-time excursions by her advisors, the killing of 'truthseekers' - Bitterblue goes into the night and into the darkest pasts. She befriends a group of truthseekers who want to expose the crimes of Leck and his accomplices, and become targets for someone who wants to silence them and bury the truth. The more she uncovers, the more unstable her world becomes, but with the aid of her old friends Katsa and Po, Giddon, Raffin, Bann, and new friends - including Saf, a graceling thief and truthseeker - she may finally discover how to heal her kingdom and herself.
Bitterblue is a fitting conclusion, I think, to this series (if it *is* the conclusion?). As I started reading, I began to realise that it is Leck who ties these three books together, Leck to whom all the mysteries and horrors return: his rule over Monsea in Graceling, his past in Fire, and finally, his legacy, in Bitterblue. The destinies and lives of three very different protagonists in their respective books - Katsa, Fire, and Bitterblue - are shaped around the actions of this aberrant graceling. I think Bitterblue (the book) finally reveals as much truth as can be found about Leck, and imagines a way forward for all the Kingdoms - I loved that this book consciously drew together significant things from Graceling and Fire.
Of the previous books, people always seem to have favoured Graceling over Fire, but I loved *Fire* (SO MUCH) - Graceling, enjoyable but mediocre, had something missing to me, whereas Fire HAD it. Bitterblue has more of the elements that made Fire work, but where Fire was less plot-oriented and more character-centric (and vice versa for Graceling), Bitterblue was carefully balanced. The narrative does occasionally wander, but not unpleasantly. There's a fair amount of maths and technical content (ciphers, 15-hour watches and so on), which although I didn't try too hard to follow (TOO HARD XD), I do appreciate Cashore's thoroughness and effort in researching it. I also appreciate how the relationships weren't written intrusively, in a way that overshadowed and undermined the main story (Leck).
I enjoy the contrasts set up by the series also - fitting that following Katsa, graced with survival, and Fire, the monster and last of her kind, comes Bitterblue - very small and very human, and yet carrying the biggest burden of all - a whole broken country, where Katsa and Fire had only their own selves to direct. And the ending. It was...right.
I think people who enjoyed Graceling and Fire will find Bitterblue a satisfying and appropriate finale: to be read quietly and thoughtfully and without urgency. I hope this is not the last we hear of the Seven Kingdoms - although I'm sure we'll be seeing plenty more from Kristin Cashore in the future.