Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore

So, what's life like if your father was an unspeakable monster, who killed not only your mother, but the whole soul of a kingdom, and you're the orphaned princess who has ruled the kingdom since his death at the hands of one of your dearest friends? That's where Bitterblue takes up: eight years after the ending of Graceling and something like 35 after the telling of the companion book Fire.

The story has been told elsewhere. I will say that the characters were well drawn, even those with secrets to hide. Bitterblue's growth from a sheltered girl into a young woman of honor, strength, and charity was nice to read. Plus there's that lesson of trust to be learned. What I was struck with most of all is the question of how do you heal wrongs to a society -- not just the physical scars, but the emotional and mental ones. How does a society learn to function again when it's entire core has been ripped and shredded? It's something we see all too often these days, when someone takes a plane, or a gun, or a bomb, or a gas chamber and shatters a piece of the world.  The reparation must be handled with compassion, dignity, and respect, as well as righting the wrongs that still exist.  That a girl of 18 must do this, let alone one who has been orphaned, sheltered, protected, and isolated from what the real world is, becomes a huge task.  It won't be done quickly or easily. We're still recovering from the Holocaust and 9/11. As long as there are people alive to remember and feel those horrors, the wounds may heal, but the scar will still exist, unforgotten.

There are a few other things of Cashore's writing that I especially like. She takes a non-traditional view on love and relationships, both heterosexual and same sex ones. This is refreshing in a YA series. And the dynamics between the various couples also is interesting/varied. But fiery or playful, they do ring true. Though there is some romancing, it takes a back seat to the righting of a damaged kingdom.

Another thing I like about Cashore's writing is her world building.  Fascinating. When reading the descriptions of Bitterblue's kingdom, I was hearkened back to some of the descriptions of the Dells in Fire, where Leck had fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole. I won't go into more detail on that here, for fear of spoilers, but Cashore has done a great job.

Also, as I was reading the book, I was struck by how good and how detailed the cypher work was. That will be a true education for anyone reading it, who has an interest in the subject. Plus the bits and bobs of healing that came about.  Interesting for this nurse.

Finally, the art for this one, especially the inside covers and some of the final pictures and maps were superb. I want to see some of the art, tapestry, and statues that Leck collected in person, but until then I have CAshore's words, and these fine graphics to help me along.

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