Just so long. This book was SO LONG. It seriously didn’t need to be, and by the end I was certainly trudging my way through it, however, despite all that it was still my favourite of the trilogy and that can entirely be attributed to the fact that it followed Bitterblue, who is not the Queen of her kingdom. This story takes place a few years on from the events of Graceling, so it’s not really a direct sequel, but you still get to see Katsa and Po, so I’m going to classify this a regular series rather than a companion one, just with a random prequel shoved in the middle there.
It begins with a nice princess disguising herself as a pauper thing. Bitterblue fakes that she works in the castle kitchens so she can explore her own world. Whilst exploring she sees what terrible things her father has done to the people and how his memory still has a lasting affect on the population. She runs into Teddy and Saf, two rebel boys who capture her heart.
I really loved the first section. Bitterblue’s relationship with Saf was just precious. I’m talking actually adorable. But they have that classic affliction that most YA couples have and that’s: Bad Communication. Obviously, B doesn’t want to tell Saf that she’s actually the Queen otherwise he might start treating her differently, and he certainly wouldn’t trust her anymore, but she’s really enjoying her time as the anonymous girl with no responsibilities. So there’s obvious tension and let’s just say that it’s pretty obvious where this goes. Despite the tropes I still really adores the chemistry Saf and B had, if I ever re-read this series I would probably only read the first 150 pages of this or so, because after that it really starts to drag…
There’s a lot of tension in Bitterblue’s relationship with her advisors. They want to do one things and she wants to do another, and even though she’s the Queen they can’t help pressuring her to do what they think is best, just because she is young. I wished Bitterblue could’ve been a little more assertive even though she stood her ground, there wasn’t quite enough girl power for me.
Throughout the story, there is a lot of decoding. B sends messages to Po this way, so she’s really good with ciphers. And it seems as though King Leck has changed the history books – Bitterblue discovers this thanks to the librarian graceling Death – and he’s also left books with an indecipherable code that B makes it her mission to crack. This whole section of the book was ridiculously slow. I mean, I was putting this book down for days at a time and only reading a few pages when I eventually decided to pick it back up. It was seriously one of the hardest books to get through, which is such a shame. I just couldn’t subject myself to reading long portions of it, because there would be so much time before each reveal or someone worked out another key to the mystery.
Overall, even though I thought Bitterblue was the best of the trilogy, I was generally disappointed with all of the books. I so wish I’d liked them, because they seemed like something I would really love, but I didn’t have a good connection to any of the characters and found the writing hard to get through.