Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm book 3)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read either Graceling or Fire, Stop! You will be lost reading Bitterblue.

"How can she find her place as a true queen when her kingdom is only just waking up from the thirty-five-year spell of a madman?"

Bitterblue has ruled as Queen of Monsea for the past nine years. Her country is trying to wake up from the thirty-five-year nightmare that was her father’s rule. Leck’s Grace allowed everyone to believe the lies he told and endure his cruelty. Initially helped by her uncle, King Ror of Lienid, she still heavily relies on the advisors of her father. Now eighteen, Bitterblue is indecisive and struggles to rule a kingdom she truly knows very little about. Her advisors are pressuring her to marry one of the unwed princes of the Seven Kingdoms; possibly one of her cousins Prince Skye or Prince Po of Lienid. Bitterblue refuses to discuss the matter.

In her private quarters, Bitterblue strikes up a conversation with Fox, a castle servant with the Grace of fearlessness. She asks Fox how she is about to enter the castle at all hours and learns of the protocol her own housekeeper has established. An idea formulates in Bitterblue’s mind to don a disguise and sneak out of the castle. Her aim is to discover what lies beyond the palace walls that she is missing.

 Bitterblue begins sneaking out undetected at night and soon discovers a story room under one of the city’s bridges. There she hears a story about her father’s reign and cruelty that she knows all too well. She inadvertently draws the attention of a young man that she realizes looks Lienid but isn’t when she steals some coins to pay for her drink from a drunken man at the bar. He watches her and Bitterblue realizes that his violet eyes are two different shades and wonders what his Grace could be. She notices that he steals from a man’s coat pocket, collects his friend and leaves.

 Bitterblue continues her nightly adventures and soon becomes addicted to hearing the stories. She also sees the Graceling thief and his friend everywhere she goes. They eventually strike up a conversation. Saf, the Graceling thief, claims he only steals what has previously been stolen. He is Monsean but was raised on a Lienid ship by sailors. Saf came to spend time with his sister and met Teddy, who gave him a job in his print shop. Bitterblue keeps her true identity a secret but reveals that she works in the Palace as a baker and they accept her story.
An attack breaks out in a story room one night and Saf instinctively steps in front of Bitterblue to protect her. She notices Teddy looking ill and Saf tells her to offer him her shoulder because he is drunk. When they get outside, Bitterblue discovers Teddy has a knife in his stomach. Saf sends her to retrieve the one healer he trusts and bring him back to Teddy’s shop. She runs and soon realizes the gravity of the situation. Bitterblue finds herself going back to the palace to retrieve her own Graced healer, Madlen. Madlen goes with Bitterblue to treat Teddy and promises to keep her identity a secret. After a long night, Teddy is stable but not out of the woods yet. Saf is extremely grateful, yet wonders how a palace baker could bring the Queen’s own Graced healer to help Teddy and accomplish what no other healer could. He offers to walk her back to the palace so that the Queen won’t be without her morning bread.
Upon sneaking back into her bedroom, Bitterblue is startled to discover Po waiting for her. He tells her that the Council has overthrown the King of Nander and they are concerned that she may be having challengers to her sovereignty or unexplained attacks. She wonders about the attack on Teddy and Po questions what she was doing with the Graceling outside the castle in the wee hours of the morning. She skirts around the question and Po lets her know that he will not rat her out today but doesn’t promise to keep her secret. Later Bitterblue and her chief advisor meet with Lord Danzhol who objects to his town being chartered and wishes to marry her. When Danzhol realizes he will not be getting his way, he knocks her advisor unconscious and attempts to kidnap her. After a struggle, Bitterblue stabs Danzhol and breaks down as Po and her guard comes to her aid.

 Soon Bitterblue finds herself in the middle of several difficult situations, struggling to do what she believes is right. She agrees to house the Council’s campaign against Estill in Monsea, even though the ramifications for her people could be deadly. None of her advisors are willing to discuss Leck or his atrocities. They attempt to push Bitterblue forward and refuse to let her correct the damage to Monsea by Leck. Bitterblue is confused as she finds her feelings for Saf changing, even though he doesn’t know her true identity.

 "But if Leck is dead, why isn’t it over?” Will Bitterblue be able to set Leck’s wrongs right? How is Leck still controlling the people of Monsea eight years after his death? What are her advisors not telling her and why? What happens when Saf and Teddy discover Bitterblue’s true identity? Why is Po struggling with the secret of his Grace? Can Bitterblue become the Queen she desires to be?

Fans of Graceling and Fire get to revisit some of their favorite characters and will be left waiting for further adventures in the Graceling Realm.

Visit the Graceling Realm webite.

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