Bitterblue is the third novel in the Seven Kingdoms series, following on from the events of Fire and Graceling. The story begins eight years after the events of Graceling and is more a direct follow up to this novel with only the occasional crossover from the Fire storyline.
The focus is placed on how the Kingdom responds after the reign of tyranny has ended, mostly through the eyes of its new Queen; Bitterblue. It's best to read the first two novels in the series before reading Bitterblue however it does have a strong enough story to read on it's own should you so choose.
A Queen at just 18 years old and without her parents for support, Bitterblue struggles to understand the minutiae of ruler-ship and feels swamped by reams and reams paperwork. She begins to sneak out of the castle at night, dressed as a commoner and it's here she begins to really understand about life in her kingdom, befriending a couple of thieves who help to show her the real world.
The Council (an undercover group who are dedicated in removing those who abuse power) convene with relatives from all over the Seven Kingdoms attending and a small group agree to help the young queen. Supported by both groups of friends Bitterblue begins to learn things about Monsea that she never even suspected including the true nature of her father’s crimes.
Very much in the traditional high fantasy genre, Bitterblue is an accomplished novel with deft prose, richly detailed world-building and very effective characterisation including strong female roles and same-sex couples. A number of the characters from the previous books make a welcome return along with a cast of new, colourful ones and the way that these people are brought to life remains one of the highlights of the series.
The way that Bitterblue develops as a character and learns about the challenges of leadership is very well done and quite effective while the plot itself is interesting enough even if it doesn't really offer anything new to the genre. The author does an admirable job of maintaining a decent pace to the novel despite a great deal of world building and character development and it's a testament to the authors linguistic skill that she manages to do so. The prose is very easy on the eye and not too taxing and I must admit I did find myself quite engrossed in the story.
Bitterblue is an effective fantasy story with some great characters, strong plot and lucid prose which is elevated by some seriously great world building and an easy reading style, a fitting end to the Seven Kingdoms series.
Written by Antony, 30 May 2012.