Finished Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. This is a direct sequel to Graceling and a companion to Fire. I think each book also works as a standalone, but you would still probably do better to read Graceling first.
Bitterblue is now queen and working to undo all the harm that her father, King Leck, did to the kingdom during his reign. (He had the power to control people, which is bad enough, but he also liked to hurt people. Combine the two and it’s a nightmare.) The problem is that there are still a great deal of things that aren’t known about Leck. Bitterblue is working to solve the mysteries (and to be a good queen, the kind that her people deserve) but it’s hard because her advisors seem to prefer to tell her what she wants to hear instead of the actual truth. She finally starts sneaking out of the castle and befriends a few people who may or may not be able to help her find out the truth about her father and the kingdom.
I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book forever, although it’s only been three years or so since I read Fire. I wanted to love this book and I did enjoy it…but I didn’t love it. I think the problem is that it’s been three years or so since I read Fire, which means that I have been away from this world for a long time. It was hard for me to get back into it and fall back in love with the characters (Katsa and Po are in here, although not very much—especially Katsa). That is definitely my fault, because I don’t have time for re-reads and I think that would have helped me a lot with this book.
I loved Bitterblue, though. While she may not be equipped to be a queen (she’s very young), she definitely wants to be queen and she truly wants to help her subjects. She doesn’t always go about things the right way, but she always has the best of intentions.
What I loved best about this book is that that is the actual question it raises for me: are the best of intentions enough? Is it okay to hurt people if it’s only accidentally? Bitterblue is careless and causes actual harm for people several times, but her intent was never malicious. Does that make it okay? (In my mind no, but I think that’s something everyone has to answer for themselves—and she’s definitely far better than Leck, so there’s that.)
Another thing: I absolutely loved Death (rhymes with “teeth”), the prickly librarian. I think he was probably my favorite character. He was incredibly funny and dry, but also all he ever wanted was to be alone with his books. And I can relate to that.