I enjoyed this book even more than Fire
and much more than Graceling
. I feel that Cashore has gotten better with each iteration in this series. Bitterblue
returns to the setting and characters from the first book but eight years on from the events of that book, but allusions are made throughout to the Dells country from the second book. This book specifically follows Queen Bitterblue as she tries to uncover what atrocities her tyrant father commited when he was alive, and to try and move her Kingdom on from that reign. People are being murdered in her city though and Bitterblue comes to suspect that many things are being hidden from her.
This book involved a lot of mystery and intrigue, and kept me guessing throughout about what would actually happen and who was behind it all. I don't think I really guessed any of the major plot twists far in advance either which was nice. The book gripped me quite early on and kept me wanting to read.
There were many themes which were similar to some brought up in previous books, but Cashore also moved on and explored some different ones as well. The major themes were Bitterblue trying to deal with the horrible legacy of her father, similar to Fire
but it's explored in a different way. It was also nice to see the effort that Bitterblue and her council are having to go through to try and rebuild, as it's the kind of thing that you don't often see explored in books, films etc. - the idea of rebuilding and moving on after the 'evil tyrant has been defeated and the happy ending has been had' if you know what I mean. It also did not involve the theme that had annoyed me in the past of how marriage as a way of stripping freedom etc. from women which was nice.
The romance in this book was different as well, as it wasn't a major part of the plot like it kind of was in previous books which kind of makes more sense. It was obvious early on that Saf was Bitterblue's main love interest and it was nice to see their different kind of romance and it was kind of nice that it ended in a more bitter sweet and realistic way than in the previous books, although I do wish it could have ended a little happier!. And I also liked the relationship between Bitterblue and Giddon and could kind of see a relationship developing there too.
Overall, it was a good book and it was really interesting and gripping and although it dealt with similar themes to the previous books it also took on a fresh take to them as well.