This is the third of Cashore’s Graceling novels, though this one is more of a direct sequel to Graceling, unlike Fire which was a companion novel set in the same world. This time, the novel focuses on Bitterblue, ten years after the events of Graceling. Bitterblue was the fierce young girl that stood up to her father, the evil King Leck, with Katsa’s help, and found herself in charge of a kingdom at the age of 8. Ten years later, it turns out that things are not all well in her realm. While she wants to be a good ruler, she has been pushed to the side by her advisers, partially because of her age, and partially because of their desire to protect her. Bitterblue knows of her father’s violent past and evils from her own personal experience, but she is unaware of just how badly his influence affected his kingdom, and doesn’t know the right questions to ask. As a result, she is rather unaware of many of the problems in her realm, and sometimes is disrespectful and rude to the wrong people.
I had been pushing off reading this book because as much as I enjoyed Graceling, the first novel in this trilogy, I had heard less than positive things about Fire. The great thing about this trilogy, however, is the fact that the novels are more companion novels than a straight up trilogy so I didn’t need to read this to see where the story went due to any unresolved questions. I was happy with where Katsa was at the end of Graceling, and this novel does nothing to mess with that. In fact, while it is the second one written and published, it actually takes place prior to Graceling, in a realm that is mentioned in passing in Graceling as mysterious and unknown. The novel provides a bit more context for a character from Graceling but it isn’t necessary – I think Cashore mostly added it for the readers to enjoy the connection between her two novels, not because she necessarily felt that this person needed more exploration.
On the one hand, I was very interested in this world, and the kingdom that is still dealing with the aftermath of a corrupt ruler. While the old king is dead, there has not been enough time to heal all wounds that he has caused, and the new king, Nash, faces threats from outside kingdoms and internal forces. Cashore also introduces “monsters,” which are basically mutations of existing species that display incredible colors, produce a pheromone (I don’t think it was quite explained that way but that’s how it makes sense to me) that make them attractive to other creatures and even have the ability to exert a certain amount of mind control on non-monsters. Some of these animals are incredibly vicious and threatening while others are kept as pets and luxury items. Fire is the last known human monster, her deceased father being the corrupting influence that caused the previous king to lead his people into a precarious position. Given her father’s actions, Fire is incredibly afraid to use her powers, even when they could be of use, and refuses to use her mind to influence others unless absolutely necessary, such as under threat of death.
“When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?”
I’d recommend this for people who enjoy good YA Fantasy.
Daddy issues, virginity, and being your own person
My life is an apology for the life of my father.
Daddy issues are abundant in this YA fantasy novel. Fire and her contemporaries have been left a nation on the brink of disaster by their fathers. The late king was a pleasure seeker and drug addict who allowed his once stable nation to descend into lawlessness. Fire’s late father was the adviser with too much control over the king, and gloried in the drama and chaos he created. Fire, the current king and his siblings are struggling to undo the damage left behind. In a dangerous land, becoming like their fathers is the scariest danger of all. Continue reading
Graceling. I’d heard this YA fantasy novel title bandied about by Pajibans whose taste I admire for some time now. Finally I remembered to request it from my library. Good call, ‘Jibans. I knew I trusted You People for a reason.