I've been toying with the idea of blogging for a while. Probably everyone who spends as much time as I do talking about books, researching books and writing about books, is. After consuming so much information about books, it's only natural to want to share this knowledge with others. I adore Goodreads and it's my favorite place to be on the net, but it has some limitations, which I feel a blog platform could compensate for. So yes, blogging interested me, but I was skittish to undertake it on my own. I have neither computer savvy nor courage to start such a project by myself. This is why I'm so happy to have Flannery as my partner in crime. She's been my close Goodreads friend for a long time now. Although we don't always agree, we share not only the love of literature, but eclectic reading tastes as well. We both dabble in almost any genre you can think of. I'm absolutely sure we'll make a great blogging team and I look forward to all the fun times this joint project is bound to bring and, of course, to getting to know you better, our followers and friends.
And now, my first official review for The Readventurer.
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: 5/1/12
Blurb (GR): Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.
It's with a heavy heart that I'm giving Bitterblue only 2 stars. This book was one of the most anticipated reads of the year for me and will go down my personal history as one of the most massive disappointments. It has to be acknowledged, though, that most of the reviews of Bitterblue so far have been very positive and contained words like "genius" and "masterpiece" in them. My opinion appears to be out of norm.
After recently rereading both of Kristin Cashore's earlier books, I feel that with each new one she moves away from the simplicity of her debut Graceling (and what I personally like to read) and in a direction that I can't follow. I enjoyed the action/romance/magic mixture of Graceling and mostly liked Fire, even though some of it was boring and over-complicated (I'm talking about the ball conspiracy scene), but Bitterblue is a completely different beast, a story that is confusing and indulgently long.
I've always felt after finishing Graceling that Bitterblue's story had to be told. She carries such a dreadful legacy - a deranged, mind-manipulating father, a country damaged by the 35-year long abuse by Leck's twisted magic, Bitterblue's own childhood traumas. All of this is in the novel.
Bitterblue is 18 now, a rightful queen of Monsea, running her kingdom efficiently enough with the help of her advisers who urge her to forget the horrors of the past and look ahead. But then she starts noticing that there is something really wrong going on around her. People act irrationally, they lie about the smallest things, they make no sense. She ventures outside the walls of her castle, to meet regular people and to find out the real state of things in her country. Bitterblue comes across an even bigger amount of odd behaviors and crimes. She does her best to untangle the web of lies, puzzles and madness...
The truths Bitterblue uncovers are powerful, and they have to be explored. But I feel like Cashore arrives at those truths by a route that is too complicated, convoluted and scattered. Too many side plots, too much talk of ciphers and codes, too many characters coming and going, too many illogical occurrences that instead of making the story more intricate, end up making it too busy and messy.
I am definitely a fan of twisty, complicated plots. Bitterblue has that, it strives to be something akin to Megan Whalen Turner's and Melina Marchetta's fantasy novels (these three authors appear to draw inspiration from each other's works). But whereas I was consumed by Turner's and Marchetta's mysteries, trying to spot what was wrong and who was lying and why and guessing the connections among the characters, reading Bitterblue was mostly a confusing and irritating experience. Events and characters in this novel are completely insane. They make no sense, they defy logic, they stand out to any person as odd. Most of the book I spent repeating Bitterblue's own thoughts: What is going on? And why is everyone acting so crazy? As a mystery, Bitterblue did not work for me at all. Untangling a mystery in which no one even makes an effort to pretend to act normally is too much of a challenge for me.
There are things I did like in Bitterblue. The prologue, containing a scene of Leck mind-raping Bitterblue and her mother is, in my opinion, the best piece of Cashore's writing, horrifying and affecting. We also meet quite a few characters from the author's prior novels. Many, I am sure, will be happy to see Po and Katsa again (although they seem to be a lot more... animated than they were in Graceling). And the last hundred pages, where some secrets are uncovered and things start coming together, are much more pleasurable to read. But even keeping the positives in mind, I can't say I enjoyed reading Bitterblue. It was a challenge, it was a struggle.
I am waiting for more readers to review the novel to see if there are people out there who share my assessment of it or my reaction to Bitterblue is just a result of a severe case of reader/book incompatibility.