|cover image by LibraryThing|
It begins after the end of Graceling - after the evil King Leck is killed and his little daughter Bitterblue is ready to rule the kingdom of Monsea. The reader was left with a happy feeling -all is well.
But as Bitterblue begins you begin to realize that life did not move along as happily as we readers expected. Instead, Bitterblue is the too busy princess trapped behind a mountain of paperwork as her kingdom slowly disintegrates around her without her even knowing it is happening.
And she is bored enough to try something a bit drastic, so she begins to sneak out of the castle at night, disguised as a common spy.
And she makes friends.
And she grows up.
What she discovers is a whole bunch of secrets and facades and a coverup that just doesn't end.
The book is about her discovering why things aren't as they seem and what she can do about it. Sound a little bit like growing up???
I read the other two books several years ago - and in typical Beth fashion I just devoured them and can't remember most of the details. So, it made it a little harder to completely understand all of this book. On the other hand it was more in line with the story - since this was to have taken place 10 years after the end of Graceling.
A couple of my favorite parts...
I really liked Bitterblue. After the mind control of her graced father - she was a breath of fresh air. But, I liked the memories of her mother even more. She was a woman doomed from the very beginning - yet filled with secrets. In a great twist...Bitterblue discovers a code embroidered into the sheets and pillowcases her mother incessantly labored over. A code that was a diary telling of the atrocities of her husband and her inability to defend them.
My very favorite part though was Bitterblue's penchant for math. As her father worked to take over her mind her mother would remind her to practice difficult math problems in her mind. This practice calmed her and focused her and allowed her to defend herself from her father's devious attempts. It made me wonder if that might be helpful for some of us when our emotions and fears begin to take over. To occupy your mind with the logics and patterned rules of math could calm and focus in a very interesting way...something to think about.
Finally - to continue to control the people of Monsea, the royal advisors have taken away learning from the subjects. Printing books and teaching one another to read is forbidden and an offense that means imprisonment. Talk about oppression. In our freedom we take that for granted - but the book plays out what happens when the people don't know. Very interesting. It is one of the threads that Bitterblue discovers - and most kids won't really get. But, adds so much!
I would recommend this book.