Monday, August 13, 2012


On the second Monday of every month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)
This month's book is the long awaited BITTERBLUE, the follow up to GRACELING, by Kristen Cashore.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only 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, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Reviews of Fire and Graceling by Kristin Cashore

First Line: "When he grabs mama's wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt."

I love this opening for several reasons.  It's been a while since I read Graceling, and with a single line Cashore threw me right back into the action and the terror that Bitterblue and her mother experienced while King Leck was in power. 

It also does a nice job of setting up the confusion that Leck creates with his Grace - why is this little girl so nonchalant about this? It's a perfect set up to the mystery that unfolds in the rest of the book.

I've read many times how agents frown on the use of a prologues, but I think Bitterblue provides the perfect example of how they can be extremely effective.  In this case, it re-grounds the reader in Leck's reign of terror, and sets up the journey that Bitterblue must take as queen.  


Queen Bitterblue is a rich and well thought out character. Chashore does a brilliant job of developing her flaws and showcasing her as a real person, versus someone regal and queenly from the get-go. Readers get to discover her faults and strengths alongside Bitterblue, and it makes for a rich and layered character study as we watch Bitterblue grow throughout the story.
Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)
I was pleasantly surprised by the mystery angle that the novel took. In many ways it reminded me of a Sherlock Holmes story, or similar mystery where complex secrets are unraveled by the main character.  The twists and turns made for an exciting and engaging read, and I found myself staying up later than intended so that I could read one more page.

Prior to reading Bitterblue, I read Fire, the second book in the Graceling series meant to be a standalone. While the book does indeed stand on its own, it provides clues and insight  into the mystery that Queen Bitterblue works to unravel. I would highly recommend reading Fire before Bitterblue.

Fire (Graceling Realm, #2)

Notes for Writers:  

Cashore builds a rich and complex world without spending pages and pages explaining the details to readers. The Monsean world comes alive through action and character development. It's a must read for any writer of fantasy struggling with world building.  

For anyone working on a mystery, Bitterblue provides an excellent example of a well-paced, well thought out, multi-layered mystery. 

A good read for

Fans of the Graceling Series and fantasy fans/writers. I'd also recommend it for anyone attempting to write a mystery, or anyone who enjoys complex, layered mysteries in the vein of Sherlock Holmes.  

But before you read Bitterblue, make you sure you check out Graceling and Fire.  The entire series is beautifully written and hard to put down, whether you're a writer or just a fan of great stories.

Happy reading!  

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