June 16, 2020

‘Bitterblue’ Book Review

By Carrie

A Surprisingly Brief Introduction to Bitterblue

This introduction is surprising because it is brief. Given the breadth and depth of Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, providing a concise yet comprehensive introduction is indeed an arduous task. This novel serves as a continuation of Graceling and Fire, two books that helped Cashore to captivate readers and establish herself as a formidable force in the world of fiction writing. To get the most out of Bitterblue, readers should consider changing their schedules and give this book their undivided effort and attention. 

Most of those who read Bitterblue will find the novel to be familiar, relevant and timely. While the events in the novel are set in a fictional world with fictional characters, it echoes many of the experiences that readers must have encountered. In particular, the novel serves as a moving commentary on the brokenness of politics and the power of citizen-led revolutions. This book is a must read for individuals desperate for enlightenment, inspiration, and a revitalization of their spirits.

What is Bitterblue About?

Bitterblue is not easy to read. This is a reality that those wishing to engage with the book must accept. However, once they have gotten comfortable with the plot, setting, and themes that the novel addresses, readers are poised for a memorable experience. The book follows from the events in Graceling and Fire. It sees the return of characters from the two books. Queen Bitterblue, the young girl rescued in Graceling is the main character in Cashore’s latest creation. As she did in Graceling, Queen Bitterblue unifies the various plots and narratives to sustain Cashore’s reputation of excellence in story-telling.

As already noted, Bitterblue makes it needlessly difficult for readers to understand its direction. The most difficulty is experienced by those who are unfamiliar with Cashore’s earlier writings. However, after they have overcome the initial difficulties, readers will be drawn in by the fascinating Queen Bitterblue. The book begins by showing how the 18-year-old queen struggles to restore peace to a land ravaged by injustice and mismanagement thanks to the ineffective and unjust King Leck, Bitterblue’s father. To redeem her kingdom, Queen Bitterblue masquerades as a servant and ventures out to establish the truth about the state of the kingdom.

In her quest for the truth, Queen Bitterblue encounters various characters who help her to gain a clear understanding of the desperate situation that the kingdom is in. Lord Danzhol, one of the characters that readers will struggle to love is among the most interesting figures in the book. Keen to frustrate Bitterblue’s campaign to revive the kingdom, Danzhol sets out to kidnap her. Leveraging her impressive wisdom and strength, Bitterblue kills Danzhol. Saf, another character who seeks to engineer Bitterblue’s failure also features in the novel. Together with Danzhol, he helps Cashore to demonstrate that politics is the enemy of progress.

What makes Bitterblue so Appealing

As they ready themselves to read Bitterblue, many will be skeptical and have low expectations. In her two previous works, Cashore failed to impress. Bitterblue offered her an opportunity to win back the trust and confidence of her readers. She exploits this opportunity thoroughly. The story that she presents is riveting and readers will be forced to try very hard to resist the force that the book exerts. In essence, Bitterblue is a successful redemption for Cashore who manages to assure readers that while they may not have loved her previous novels, Bitterblue is sure to leave them satisfied.

The excellent use of suspense is one of the numerous reasons why it is very easy to recommend Bitterblue. Even the book’s title offers no clues about what it is about. It draws readers in and forces them to read on. In fact, the book’s main character Queen Bitterblue is as clueless as the readers about how events will unfold. Instead of adopting the linear and over-used approach of feeding readers all details, Cashore allows the book to unravel organically. Nothing seems forced and all the developments in the book occur at the right moment.

Cashore combines suspense with alarm and urgency to hold on to her readers even more tightly. Basically, readers should be prepared to flip one page after another as they hurry to find out how the story has developed. Cashmore demonstrates that by withholding information and forcing readers to wait, one is able to build suspense and tension. This tension is released in an explosive fashion as the readers are eventually let in on the secrets and magic that Cashmore refuses to surrender for much of the book until the opportune moment arrives.

Writers tend to rely on characters who are rather plain, predictable and simply boring. Cashore is different. Nearly all her characters are genuinely interesting, well-developed, and rounded. For example, while she is clearly the heroine of the book, Queen Bitterblue is not perfect. She makes mistakes that cause readers to question her judgment and whether it was appropriate for Cashore to place her at the center of the novel. What is not questionable is that Cashore reassures her readers that while she may have disappointed them before, she was not going to betray their trust in Bitterblue. 

Cohesion and unity are other issues that work together to bolster the appeal of Bitterblue. How the plot develops, the themes that the book explores, and Cashore’s narration style work together beautifully to generate a thing of beauty. Any reader who puts the book down and reports being disappointed is simply foolish with no appreciation for magic. Bitterblue should form part of the curriculum in writing schools where it can be used to enlighten, inspire and expand the minds of budding writers. This book shows that when writers are patient, and refrain from insulting their audiences with works that are rushed out the door, they are able to deliver books that leave lasting impacts.

While it is a work of fiction, Bitterblue is as real as it gets. The book confronts topics that many readers will find to be personal and relevant. For example, this book shows how Bitterblue goes great lengths to undo the damage that her kingdom had suffered under the rule of her father. Her efforts mirror the various programs that different countries have implemented to restore justice. Therefore, while she aimed to simply entertain her readers, Cashore succeeds in renewing the faiths of her readers and assuring them that with unrelenting effort, it is indeed possible to achieve a just society led by heroes and heroines who spare no expense to protect their nations.

Wrapping up

It is true that Bitterblue is intended for a large and diverse audience. However, those who have read and loved Cashore’s other works which tend to be more romantic may feel disappointed. Bitterblue is not romantic at all. If anything, it is harsh, depressing, and disappointing. This book is clearly meant for readers who possess the tenacity and maturity to handle frustration and disappointment. 

Should you consider Bitterblue or is it so bad that you should just dismiss it? Any reviewer who encourages readers to skip Bitterblue would be doing them a serious and an unforgivable injustice. This said, this reviewer strongly and passionately calls on readers to go ahead and read Bitterblue. The reviewer promises them that this book will excite, entertain, and exhilarate.