“Find something useful to do with your morning,’ she thought to him as she neared her chambers. ‘Do something heroic in front of an audience. Knock a child into a river while no one’s looking and then rescue him.”
It is eight years since we visited Cashore’s world and Bitterblue is still the queen of Monsea. Her advisors have suggested that they pardon everyone who committed horrible acts under Leck’s reign, under the assumption it was his fault, and forget it ever happened. For years Bitterblue struggles with mountains of paperwork, signatures and odd behavior from her advisors. Through sheer frustration, Bitterblue begins to sneak out of the castle at night and into the city. She visits the story rooms, where people tell the tales of Leck’s reign and the history of their city. Slowly Bitterblue begins to realize that her city cannot heal through ignoring the past, but through uncovering it and hopefully, finally, understanding it.
After Graceling and Fire, I admit I expected a book with a little more action and adventure. But Bitterblue is not a book of quests across forests and through dangerous new terrain. It is a book full of intrigue, secrets, heartbreak and growing up. Bitterblue must learn to speak for herself, think for herself and discover how to lead her city. For years she has stalled in her castle, hidden under paperwork and trusting her advisor’s nonsensical terrified advice.
When she finally wakes up, it is a long, hard, confusing process that requires a lot of sad discoveries and death to uncover. In the end, it is worth it. Bitterblue is able to become an independent young woman who leads her city, and herself, towards healing. Towards the end of her harrowing journey through the dark labyrinth of Leck’s past, she uncovers a ray of hope. A truth among all the lies. Something I (and I’m sure all other readers) look forward to exploring in the future. Much like the sun breaking through the clouds after a thunderstorm, I hope, that is what the next book will be.