Kristin Cashore‘s characters are everyday – yet still completely extraordinary. The feeling as if I’m visiting old friends is what keeps me coming back for more in her Graceling books. Her latest, “Bitterblue,” didn’t disappoint. Only this time, I got to discover how a little girl I once knew comes of age.
Her character-driven approach might seem tedious to some readers. It doesn’t lend itself to fast-paced action, although there is no shortage of mystery and events that affect her characters. However, the action isn’t over the top, but more like the everyday things you would find in your life. Only, in “Bitterblue,” those everyday things affect the future of Monsea. Cashore’s approach allows for three-dimensional, fully developed “people,” who feel human. As a reader, there is nothing I love more than getting lost in great characters.
Beyond the characters, I especially enjoyed “Bitterblue” because the entire book is a puzzle, filled with ciphers, clues and pieces that the reader gets to put together along with the heroine in order to unravel the mystery of her father’s twisted reign. Because her father corrupted people’s freewill, many of the characters are broken and damaged mentally. There are certain scenes that I felt that tea with the Mad Hatter would be tamer than trying to decipher their ramblings. It actually adds to the challenge of figuring out the puzzle Bitterblue is trying to solve, because it plants false clues, and you have to pick through the insanity to find the truth – just like Bitterblue.
Cashore’s third novel is a sequel to “Graceling” and a companion to “Fire.” However, if you haven’t read either, “Bitterblue” works as a standalone novel. I recommend all three, though.