Feb. 25th, 2017

juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Title: Bitterblue (Graceling Realm Book 3)
Author: Kirstin Cashore
Narrator: Xanthe Elbrick
Published: Listening Library, 2012
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 570
Total Page Count: 206,535
Text Number: 629
Read Because: continuing the series, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Almost a decade after Leck's death, Bitterblue is a young queen trying to usher her country out of the shadow of his rule. This has something of a slow start; the puzzle motif initially appears too shallow to sustain an entire book, and Bitterblue is slower than the reader to pick up on what motivates supporting characters. But it improves as it continues, opening into a deeper and more dynamic exploration of trauma and kingdom-building. Despite his death, Leck is more threatening here than he ever was in Graceling, and that narrative-in-absentia is skillful, haunting, and deeply compassionate. The romance is relatively decentralized, and other books in the series are neatly integrated into the worldbuilding. Watching Cashore mature as a writer has been just as enjoyable as reading the books themselves, and Bitterblue quietly blew past all my expectations. It's one of those books that achieves its central intent so completely that it enables me to overlook other niggling weaknesses—a truly satisfying experience.

(First five star book of the year! Like other favorite-so-far, Kiersten White's And I Darken, it's probably more of a 4.5; but as per final sentence, this is one of those books where the final effect is so successful that I can overlook other shortcomings.)


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