Saturday, September 29, 2012

I have so many thoughts about Bitterblue

First off.

SPOILER ALERT!!

If you have not read this book, then don't read this blog post. And if you haven't read both Graceling and Fire, then this may or may not make a hill of beans worth of sense.

Secondly, this may be a rambling rapid fire pile of mosh as my brain has not stopped firing since I closed the book.

Okay, I'll be honest. I didn't love this book as I read it. I'm not left-brained so math and ciphers are not that interesting to me. I realize what a huge job this must have been for Cashore as she wrote this and hats off indeed, but, eh, not my thing.  And at first, I didn't love Bitterblue. I didn't dislike her, but I didn't feel the same kind of fiery intense character love I felt for both Katsa and Fire. I found her still young, a bit petulant, and her confusion sort of bugged me. At first. But I'll get to that later.

Monsea City wasn't as fully visualized for me as it could have been. The visuals of this city itself weren't clear. I didn't have a clear image in my head of castle to bridges to east city, even with the wood cut illustrated maps. And I wanted more of Teddy, his sister, and Saf's sister. I think there should be a companion book out of these three. (Are you listening Kristin Cashore?)

But where Kristin Cashore won me, hands down wrapped me in a blue ribbon and delivered me to reader heaven was her skillful characterization. I just kept stopping in awe of how fully she kept each of the other characters we'd learned to love, fully in character, but in a new place, a new novel. Katsa, Po, and Fire were still the characters I loved but they'd evolved. Older, different, with new things happening in their lives, but still essentially them. This is not easy as a writer. Word choice, actions, the ways characters react need to be integral to who they are. When it's done well it's a sign of a writer really knowing what she's created. And Cashore is a freakin' master.

Back to Bitterblue. So, as I said, I felt sort of lukewarm about her in comparison to strong-willed Katsa and beautiful, maternal Fire. But then Fire showed me Bitterblue through her eyes, and Bitterblue saw herself through Fire's guidance, and we all finally saw Bitterblue as queen. Truly a queen. It took the whole book for Cashore to get me to see her that way, but what I realized at the end is Kristin Cashore did that. I thought I was having my own opinions about this character but by the end I realized I'd been skillfully led through the entire trip.

Wow. Just wow.

Okay, so talk to me about this book! I can't find anyone at the conference who's finished it.


10 comments:

  1. I don't know the book, but I still read your post. Heh. :) It's true that skillful characterization can help a book overcome other shortcomings. I'm glad you had WOW moments. Those are the best.

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    1. If you like fantasy - I highly recommend Kristin Cashore's books. They're Young Adult, but so well done.

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  2. I have to agree with everything you said. I believe my expectations were WAY TO HIGH for this book because of my huge love for GRACELING and FIRE. I was disappointed because I inevitably compared. I missed the adventure and the romance. I wonder how I would have enjoyed it had I not read the others.

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    1. That's a really good question. I don't think it would have made sense without the others, honestly. But it would be an interesting experiment.

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  3. Graceling is a hard act to follow. From its opening pages I was entranced with fierce Katsa and the wonder and horror of having a 'gift' such as hers. I was slower getting into Fire since I wanted to know the futures of Katsa and Po, although I did come to respect her and that book, too. I felt the same as you about Bitterblue, who didn't wow me like Katsa or Fire but grew on me. I realized how true Kristin Cashore was in depicting a child queen who depends on and is constrained by advisors. And how difficult it would be to untangle deceptions that had been played on your mind. In that, the book is brilliant and complex.
    Strangely, I went to Goodreads to see what I'd said in review since I read it half a year ago, and I don't seem to have written one. Perhaps, I was too conflicted to know what to say, but now that you ask, it's flooding back to me.

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    1. Interesting - Fire was actually my favorite. I didn't think it could top Graceling, but it stayed with me longer. This one sure got me thinking, which is better than one I finish and never think about again. I think I read this one more as a writer, though.

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  4. I agree that seeing Bitterblue through Fire's eyes helped a bit at the ending, but by then I had checked out. I didn't enjoy the romance, or the long-winded plot of her father's atrocities. All in all, if she had shortened the book by 150 pages, I think I still would have been intrigued at the end, as I feel the characterization would not have suffered. I made myself finish it because I love the two other books, otherwise, I doubt I would have. Perhaps I'll read it again someday and feel differently, but it'll sit on the shelf a long time.

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    1. Yeah, the romance wasn't rival to either of the romances in the other books. And it was long. I could set this one down and leave it between chapters which was pretty impossible to do with the other two. Maybe because it was just so much figuring out what was going on?

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  5. Sadly, I haven't read it yet either, even though it's sitting on my shelf, along with a huge stack of books to be read. *sigh* I need more time in my life. Unfortunately, I don't think extra time is something that will be forthcoming.

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    1. I know what you mean! My poor bedside table teeters with books.

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