Friday, November 16, 2012

Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore

Not so much the latest installment of a trilogy as much as a parallel sequel to Graceling (taking a minor side-story and expanding it), this is ostensibly the story of how King Leck's daughter Bitterblue helped her kingdom come to terms with his murderous legacy.  Her efforts are complicated by the terror she still feels towards her father and a growing sense that her advisers are resistant to reforms.  Overcoming those fears becomes Bitterblue's own shining contribution.

The book is a bit longer and thematically more complex than the other books in the series.  Cashore is great with details and telling a complicated story.  This is a good thing since she has chosen two difficult tasks (to depict a very lively political scene and to dig in to the concept of terror and the way that one recovers from its trauma).  She's not always successful in keeping up a good pace to the story and the middle of the book starts to drag a bit with navel gazing peer counseling and a number of subplots that even Bitterblue's surly archivist writes off as "of questionable relevance."  The conclusion is also painfully drawn out, sending us through nearly 100 pages of tying up loose ends.  Still, one can be indulgent over the dull sections as the work overall is a magnificent and complex achievement that continues to develop the world of its two predecessors.

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