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Let me begin by saying that I should have read Bitterblue years earlier. I put off reading it because, based on the blurb, I thought Katsa and Po were not as madly in love as I always hoped they would be. Thankfully, I was wrong and they are in fact even crazier about each other than in Graceling. This alone makes the book worthwhile for me.
There really wasn’t much storyline exactly. I mean there was, but nowhere near what there was in Graceling. I would caution anyone expecting a new Graceling to not read this for that reason. This book is like the fallout from Graceling, the consequences and the reactions rather than a story fully its own. If you’re looking for more Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue with more or less day to day castle life with a mystery underlying it then this is a great book for you.
I can tell that a book labeled action is actually action by whether or not I would recommend it to my husband. One of our biggest pet peeves is when something is marketed a certain way to get readers or viewers but is not in actuality anything like what it has been portrayed as. The movie Bernie for example is not a comedy just because Jack Black is in it. This applies to Bitterblue in that it is a very different book than Graceling. Really it is a completely different genre written with the same voice and the same characters. My husband loves Graceling, but after five years of marriage I can tell you Bitterblue is not his kind of book.
How the psychological side of this book is written is stupendous. I cannot fathom handling things as well as Bitterblue did in regard to having a psychopathic father and being required to discover the torturous things he did over a thirty-five-year reign. King Leck becomes a much more terrifying specter than he ever felt in Graceling because he is a ghost that continues to tear things apart without ever having to actually be present. Even the memories of such darkness can prove too much. For some people these sections may prove to be too much and I encourage anyone who thinks they will be to skip either the sections or the entire book. Some people think that what was mentioned were unnecessary, but I would argue that they are in essence the whole point of the book. This book demands to know how you heal after atrocities are committed against the people you are meant to take care of even when that is an entire country.
The way sexuality is covered is so important. I mean it’s so rare that a YA book mentions masturbation. It is far more likely that you’ll come across a raving sex scene than the mere mention of masturbation. I think masturbation has a huge stigma about it that makes no sense considering if it was viewed less negatively there is a chance we would have less teen pregnancies. Just my opinion. In this book masturbation is mentioned very casually as Bitterblue thinks that she is not completely innocent to her own body and has made certain “discoveries” with herself. This also answers the important question of how she managed to go so long without any sort of physical intimacy with anyone. Also, one of the main characters is gay and this isn’t only mentioned as a passing thought it is fully discussed as how he might improve his situation despite being a Prince and technically being unable to marry a man and a commoner. The Dells are held up as a glowing example of what could be one day for everyone in Monsea and beyond. While technically there could have been more page time covering the LGBTQ topic it was still handled well and was never meant to be the focus of the book.
Cashore shows something that is incredibly important and all too often ignored in YA; loving someone doesn’t mean it’ll all work out. Some relationships end with friendship and that’s the best you’ll ever get from that person. Cashore has always done a good job of showing fairly accurate romances and with Bitterblue she is able to develop this completely different relationship than Katsa and Po. She shows that what works for some people doesn’t work for others and it’s important that everyone learn that in some way so why not through books.
I would recommend Bitterblue for readers who enjoyed the voice of Graceling and would like to see more of Po and Katsa and how things are in the times after Graceling.Follow me on Instagram and Goodreads