Review: Bitterblue – Kristin Cashore

Review: Bitterblue – Kristin CashoreBitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #3
Published by Dial Books
Published: May 1st 2012
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five-stars

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck's death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck's reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea's past has become shrouded in mystery, and it's only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle - curious, disguised and alone - to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.

Whatever that past holds.

Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .

And the Graceling spark is back! What a great, great ending to a pretty amazing series that I almost never read. If you have read my reviews of Graceling and Fire you know that while I loved Graceling to pieces, Fire was definitely not my favorite. I liked it a lot, but I didn’t love it. So with one book left in the series I was scared. I had no idea what I was getting in the final chapter of the story. Well, folks, I got exactly what I hoped for. I got a story that was almost as good as Graceling, faster paced then Fire, and gave me a new love for Queen Bitterblue that I didn’t have in Graceling. I got the perfect ending to a fabulous trilogy that managed to pull all three books together in a pretty seamless fashion. Simply put, I got exactly what I was looking for.

Bitterblue takes place 8 years after Graceling and about 3 decades after Fire. It’s about Bitterblue, who we first met as a 10-year-old in Graceling who was fleeing from her psychopathic father and is taken into safety by Katsa and Prince Po. Now with her father, Leck dead Bitterblue is Queen of Monsea and has been for some time now. Buried under a mountain of paperwork and the burden of the destruction her father caused Bitterblue yearns to get outside and see her kingdom. Unable to do so thanks to her advisers Bitterblue takes to sneaking out and in the midst uncovers secrets in her kingdom that go back to the time her father ruled Monsea and they are secrets that some people don’t want to let out. With the help of some old friends, some commoners and some new friends, Bitterblue has to figure out who to trust and exactly how to move her people forward all while dealing with matters of the heart.

Confession time…I didn’t like Bitterblue in Graceling. I know she was a kid, but there was something about her that I found annoying. So basically I was dreading a whole book about her.  But honestly, I fell head over heels for her in Bitterblue. She had grown leaps and bounds since the first time we saw her and man was I ever grateful. She carried the whole book on her back, I mean she had no choice since the book is titled Bitterblue, but you know what I mean. I actually found myself loving her and the power she held and her desire to want to help her people. I loved seeing her work with Katsa, Po, Raffin & Giddon (like the wouldn’t make an appearance) and I loved seeing her interact with Sapphire and Teddy. As conflicted as she was about moving forward and away from Leck she knew the right thing to do was try and figure out exactly what went down during his reign. And the addition of Fire, Death and the healer were nice touches.

Was Bitterblue as good as Graceling? No, but I’m not sure many books can be. But what it was was a book all its own that used familiar and not so familiar to tie a trilogy together. It used a good mystery to drag you in and kept it fresh and interesting at the same time. Cashore created a fantasy world that was believable in Graceling, gave some background in Fire and tied it all together in Bitterblue leaving this reader very happy and very satisfied. To all of you out there that convinced me to read this series and take a chance, a humble thank you.

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Review: Fire – Kristin Cashore

Review: Fire – Kristin CashoreFire by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #2
Published by Firebird
Published: October 5th 2009
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four-stars

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there's more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren't afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

For me, it was hard to top the amazingness that was Graceling. You read my review (if you didn’t you can check it out here), you heard me gush about it and call it even better than The Hunger Games. And I truly believe that. Bust sadly Fire just wasn’t up to that level. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the ‘prequel’-like story and I loved Brigan and Fire for the most part, but it just didn’t hit me the same way as Katsa and Po’s story did.

Fire is the story of a girl named Fire that lives in a time before Graceling in a land called the Dells. Fire is a monster in the sense that she can control what people’s actions and thoughts are. But unlike some people, Fire is unwilling to use her power unless it is to save herself because she refuses to become her father. Her father was a monster and with the help of the since-departed King Nax, ruined the kingdom of the Dells. But Fire hold power she never thought she had. She may have the power to save the Kingdom. With the help of King Nash and his brother Prince Brigan, Fire learns her power doesn’t have to be locked away but embraced if used in the right way. Now she just needs to make sure she stays alive.

Basically, the story starts out with the birth of Leck, that awful king, and father to Bitterblue, from Graceling. The audience finally gets to see his birth and where he came from, essentially his back story. But this is only a minor part of the book in the beginning and I think that is what threw me. I felt like I was waiting for almost the whole book for Leck to show up again and to really get to his story, to maybe understand him more. And I was disappointed because that didn’t happen, at least not to my hope. What happened was a long story about Fire and her insecurities. And a love story that wasn’t really a love story. Brigan, who I ♥ dearly, wasn’t around for about ¾ of the book and that made me really sad and I think therein lies the problem.

I think as I was reading Fire instead of trying to get into the part that I was currently reading, I was constantly waiting for something else. I was waiting for Brigan to sweep Fire off her feet, of Leck to make a huge impact, or for some weird random connection to Graceling that you didn’t expect make itself known. And that is a bad way to read a book. The book dragged because of my mind frame and I just couldn’t get it to do anything else.

The writing though was fabulous and the story was good at the core. Fire was a little too wishy-washy for my taste, but I totally understood her and got where she was coming from. And I loved Fire’s interactions, although small, that she had with Brigan and her relationship with King Nash. And there was a part of the story that I was not expecting at all so that was another plus. But for me, it just didn’t have that Graceling spark. Basically, I liked it a lot but didn’t love it.

 

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Review: Graceling-Kristin Cashore

Review: Graceling-Kristin CashoreGraceling by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Published by Harcourt
Published: 2009
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five-stars

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight--she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graces as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace--or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away.

I’m going to say this and I’m going to say it without hesitation…Graceling was better than The Hunger Games. Yup, I said it out loud and I truly, honestly, 100% mean it. Because Graceling was hands down fantastic! It was a 471-page book and my only complaint is that it wasn’t longer. Graceling touched me in a way that no other book really has. And the truth is I almost didn’t read it. You see I had an aversion to all things deemed “fantasy” and refused to try them. Well after some listening to massive amounts of gush on this I took my BN gift card that I got for Christmas and bit the bullet and bought it. I have never been so happy to have bought a book in my life!

Graceling is the story of Katsa, a girl that has been graced with the power of killing. Since discovering her power when she was a small child Katsa has been “employed” by her uncle King Randa to do his dirty work and keep people in line. For years Katsa has been a prisoner to her grace, doing exactly what her uncle asked of her. That is until she meets Prince Po. Po is nothing like anyone else the lady has ever met. He has no fear of her. He has heard all the stories, knows what she is capable of and yet he doesn’t shy away from her. Instead, he inspires her to stand up for herself. Now broken away from the King, Katsa and Po go on a journey that neither one of them expected and learn things they never could have imaged about themselves, each other and the world they live in. As secrets start to be unveiled they both know one thing and one thing only…nothing will ever be the same again for either one of them.

So now I’m sure you are wondering why I loved this more than The Hunger Games. I know, it is a bold statement to make. But the reason? I felt the connection. I felt everything Katsa felt. I felt everything that Po felt. I was a part of their world and wasn’t afraid to be even when things were bad. I felt safe reading Katsa and Po’s story. And I felt the emotion between them. A book that could have easily been campy/cheesy never went there even once for me. It was believable and that right there is where my love comes so strong. As crazy and out there as these Graces were, I never once questioned the possibility of it. I was immersed in this world with everything I had and never thought anything about it.

Katsa was amazing. She was strong(and I don’t mean just physically), independent, and loving. She carried this whole book on her young shoulders and did it with ease. Sure it helped to have adorable, swoon-worthy, Po by her side pulling out everything he knew Katsa was, but she was the hero. She was the star and even Po pointed that out to her(which I loved!). Was she uncertain and scared like any girl in her place would be? Absolutely, but she handled herself with grace and class and held herself together in the face of danger after danger to get done what needed to be done. By far one of the strongest, if not THE strongest, female leads in a book. And then you have Po. Sidekick like Po who was happy to be the sidekick. He wasn’t one of those macho neanderthals that pouted if a girl was better then him at anything. He didn’t think he was the best at much and that right there made him a “heartthrob” and a character I will never forget.

Truth: That description is totally lame! I wanted to tell you how awesome this book. I wanted to describe every detail and feeling and emotion I got. But the thing is, I can’t. If I do, there is no point in your reading and what is the fun in that? You need to want to read it, be teased enough into reading it, be dying to pick it up. Because another truth…you won’t be disappointed.

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