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all hearthfires & holocausts

eating books. bleeding words.

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Bitterblue - Kristin Cashore, Ian Schoenherr I should have done my reviews for Graceling and Fire right after finishing them, because now all I can think to write about them is I LOVE THEM SO MUCH, and WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO BITTERBLUE?Bitterblue picks up (after a very creepy prologue) ten years after Graceling, when Bitterblue is 18 and fully stationed as queen of Monsea, struggling to find her place amid a kingdom just waking up from a 35-year sleep under Leck's rule. She is trapped under mountains of paper and the thumb of her advisors, who preach forward-thinking and the need to forget the atrocities of Leck and move on. Bitterblue wants to be an asset to her Kingdom and help repair the damage her father did, but she is has no understanding of her peoples' lives, wearing castle blinders and never allowed to see her kingdom for herself.One night, Bitterblue sneaks out of the castle and explores the streets of Monsea on her own. She sees the poverty, the disrepair, and the yearning of her people to remember the time they lost under Leck, and rebuild. She realizes all the information she'd been given about her kingdom has been false. But is she being lied to by the ones she trusts most, or is there some other explanation? And if she is being kept purposely in the dark, to what end? You know, after 550 pages, I still can't answer that last question. Bitterblue was as complicated and convoluted as any story I've ever read--unnecessarily, indulgently so. Just when I thought I was getting a handle on ONE of the mysterious elements, another layer was added, complicating it further. It was a neverending maze of mysteries to unravel, when really the story at the core would have been very simple to tell. The simplicity that made Graceling and Fire so lovely, giving the characters freedom to be complex and grow into their full potential, was completely absent in Bitterblue. While I had sympathy for the position she was in and what she was trying to do, mostly I found Bitterblue obtuse and gullible--maybe because I was adrift in a sea of WHAT THE HELL IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?! and was looking to her for insight.I don't claim to be any expert on writing mysteries, but I think there is a fine line between keeping the characters in the dark and keeping the reader in the dark. The most satisfying mysteries I've read have been those where I was given just enough clues to begin to form my own theories, but not necessarily enough that I expect the main character to develop the same. In Bitterblue there was too much happening for either me as the reader or Bitterblue to untangle all the threads and form a coherent theory.I don't know if all questions posed were answered. I can tell you I won't be rereading to find out. Lastly, while I did enjoy seeing more of Po and Katsa, much of it rang false for me. They seemed very different people. And while I understand how Cashore was attempting to tie all three novels together, Fire's introduction felt a little reaching to me. Another layer upon layers and layers of information. Despite all my rants above, I did mostly enjoy reading this. But reading it directly after finishing Graceling and Fire set expectations that were not met. Perhaps readers who have a greater length of time between reading will enjoy this more.