Happy book birthday to Kristin Cashore's latest book, BITTERBLUE!
How gorgeous is this cover? I love how each key is so distinctive and made of a different medal. And while I noticed the eye in the ring immediately, it took me awhile to make out the face of the girl on the cover. And I love the font of the title.
I was lucky to snag an ARC of this book all the way back in February, and I have to admit, it took me awhile to put this on the top of my to-read pile.
Part of it was the length: at 545 pages, this book kind of requires it's own backpack to lug back and forth on the train. It didn't even fit into the extra pocket on my purse where I keep my currently-reading book.
But mostly, I was nervous. I'd gotten to know Cashore's work when GRACELING came out, and fell hard for her expertly crafted stories with FIRE. But what if I didn't love BITTERBLUE as much? It was a lot of pressure on a book. And it's so hard to find good heroine-adventure fantasies that aren't not ruined by a vampire or a werewolf and damsel-in-distress syndrome halfway through...what if my love wavered? You can't just replace one author with another, after all.
But all my worry was for naught, because as it turns out, I should've trusted Cashore in the first place. BITTERBLUE is amazing. Like made me cry and laugh and want to put it down to make it last longer but I couldn't pry it out of my own hands amazing. Made me say out loud, "THIS is what a good book is supposed to look like." Made me assault my ever-patient husband with blow-by-blow recaps over dinner.
So here are, in my opinion, 5 of the many things that make BITTERBLUE amazing:
1) World building! Man, Kristin Cashore can build a world like nobody's business. What I found most impressive about the world building in this book is that Bitterblue, being Queen, spends 90% of her time in the castle...and yet I never felt like we were just in the castle. Somehow I managed to see an entire city, and an entire land, through the windows of the castle. And the palace itself was creepy and maze-like and as much a puzzle as all the other mysteries in the book. Huge paintings of animals in strange bright colors (Fire reference FTW!), sculptures of people turning into animals and inanimate objects...Bitterblue spends the entire book continually discovering areas of the palace she didn't know existed, and learning not only how to rule her kingdom, but how to be in charge of her home.
2) Moments that you make you say "Oh no she didn't!" out loud. If you've read GRACELING, you have an idea of how creepy King Leck is. Well, his creepiness doesn't end there...his horrible legacy haunts Bitterblue and the people of her country and castle throughout the entire book. Bitterblue works to discover just what her father did and how she can help Monsea heal...and as she does, comes across truly horrifying information. Like, your mind jumps to conclusions but then you think, "Oh no, she can't possibly go ther--OMG SHE JUST WENT THERE." I had that reaction at least 10 times while reading this book. And while there are parts that are squicky and uncomfortable to read, I love love love that Cashore had the guts to not hold back. It makes the entire book so much stronger and haunting.
3) Ciphers! Who read the DaVinci Code? It's okay, don't be shy. I've read all of Dan Brown's books, mostly because I love reading about ancient mysterious puzzles that require a ridiculous amount of brain power to understand and solve. And this book is full of them! Bitterblue has a mind for ciphers--she writes to her friends and extended family in cipher, discovers more ciphers, tries to break them...it made my brain hurt to read it, in the best way possible.
4) Old favorites! Not only was I excited to get back to Bitterblue's story since it left off at the end of GRACELING, I lovelovelove that I got to catch up Katsa, Po, Raffin, Bann, Giddon...especially Giddon. I have vague memories of disliking him in GRACELING, but I feel that can't be true, because I swooned more than once this time around. And for the rest of them...the cuteness. The witty interchanges. I almost couldn't handle the awesome. It was like watching a bunch of puppies wrestle each other.
5) Speaking of swooning...I think Cashore is the new master of the non-romance romance. She's managed to write three books with three completely different kinds of romance that feel real, and hard, and complicated, and swoony, and and and...sigh. I don't even have words.
So, in conclusion: GO BUY BITTERBLUE AND READ IT! Right now! What are you waiting for?!
(And don't get too jealous, but our favorite booksellers at Children's Book World may be hosting a Kristin Cashore signing this Thursday. I might already be thinking about camping outside their store. And maybe, just maybe, I'm also thinking about getting a copy for giveaway...)