Author: Kristin Cashore
Synopsis: What happens after a sadistic – and not to mention mind-controlling – King destroys a kingdom? How you do pick up the pieces? Would you dig up those deeply buried, painful truths? After her cruel father’s rule was put to an end, Bitterblue inherits the crown. She herself still struggles with the painful memories of the perversities that were carried out during her Father’s reign. To make things worse, half the time she feels like the other inhabitants of the castle, down to the lowliest scrubs, are all half mad from being haunted by their own past memories. And everything Bitterblue’s advisors tell her to do is not helping and all her ideas for making amends with the people are ignored. And all these solutions are complicated by the fact that King Leck could have been responsible for forcing any number of people to commit disgusting cruel acts. How to tell whether someone was taking advantage of the times or whether they were under King Leck’s influence? All these troubles make Bitterblue restless at night, which leads to sneaking out of the castle, of course. Her first escapades lead her to the storyrooms where she encounters twisty-pathed personalities who seem to speak truth and lie in one breath. This is a story about Bitterblue’s investigation into the truth of things and her belief that through that process, she can try to heal and make reparations to her people in the most sincere way possible. But the more she seeks the truth, the more she ends up waking people from their protective slumber of forgetfulness. What is truth? Is it worth the pain that comes with it? Bitterblue city carries hidden, tragic secrets that run around down mad labyrinthine castle passageways and escape out into the night time city.
Impressions: This was a looooong book. It was full of courtly intrigues, code cracking, spying and truth unearthing. But everything happens really slowly in the beginning, mirroring everyone’s sleepy numbed, states. Then, things do speed up near the last portions of the story, and a lot of interesting connections between this book and Kristin Cashore’s other books Graceling and Fire are revealed. But, in general, it was a very slow moving story, for me. I do like the book very much, however. I like the characters, their names, their quirks, their ways to deal with what King Leck did to them, their interactions with each other. I ENJOY the character building. I just wish the plot would move a bit faster, there are great segments of the book that I don’t really remember what happens in them (perhaps I was reading it a bit too fast, though). BUT DO READ THIS BOOK – if not for the very endearing characters and their sometimes cutsey, sometimes tragic relationships with each other. Please do read the book! I promise you’ll like Bitterblue from page one. Kristin Cashore just has a way of writing characters so that they are instantly likeable and interesting. Of course, it helps that most of the characters are craaaazy. Gives more material to work with, I would think. Altogether a very well-crafted story – even comes with cutsey illustrations of Bitterblue city and the castle and the various architectures described in the story.
Rating: 4 salted caramels
The room smelled of dust and had no windows. It was cavernous and square with no furniture, except for a single, massive, empty bed frame in the center of the room. The sculptures, on pedestals, filled the rest of the space; there must have been forty of them. Walking among them with Fox and the lantern was a bit like walking among the shrubberies of the great courtyard at night, for they loomed in just the same way, all seeming as they were about to come alive and start striding around.
She could see that they were the work of Bellamew. Animals turning into each other, people turning into animals, people turning into mountains or trees, all with a vitality, a sense of movement and feeling. Then the lamp caught a strange blotch of color and Bitterblue realized something was peculiar about these sculptures. Not just peculiar, but wrong: They were slapped over with gaudy, bright paint of every color, paint that made splatters all across the rug.
She had expected weapons of torture in this room, perhaps. A collection of knives, stains of blood. But not ruined art arrange on a ruined rug, surrounding the skeleton of a bed.
He destroyed the sculptures in his rooms. Why?
The walls all around were covered with continuous hangings. A field of grass, turning to wildflowers, then into a thick forest of trees that gave way to wildflowers again, then to the field of grass it had started with. Bitterblue touched the forest on the wall, just to assure herself that it wasn’t real, only a hanging. Dust rose; she sneezed. She saw a tiny owl, turquoise and silver, sleeping in the limbs of one of the trees.
Built into the back wall of the room was a door. It led to nothing more than a bathing room, functional, cold, ordinary. Another door opened to a closet space, empty and choked with dust. She could not stop sneezing.
A third doorway in the back wall, this one a simple opening with no door, led to a spiral staircase climbing up. At the top of the stairs was a door so thoroughly nailed over with boards that it was difficult to catch a glimpse of the door itself. Bitterblue pounded and called Helda’s name. When Helda responded, her question was answered: This was the staircase that led up to Bitterblue’s sitting room and the blue horse hanging.
Down the steps again, Bitterblue said to Fox, “It’s creepy, isn’t it?”
“It’s fascinating, Lady Queen,” said Fox, stopping before the room’s tiniest sculpture, staring at it, mesmerized. It was a human child, perhaps two years old, kneeling with arms outstretched. A girl with something knowing in her eyes. Her arms and hands were turning into wings. Her wispy hair was sprouting feathers, her toes turning into talons. Leck had slapped a streak of red paint across her face, but it didn’t manage to deaden the expression in her eyes.
Why would he try to ruin something so beautiful? What is the world he was trying, and failing, to create?