Monday, January 14, 2013

Sweet Bitterblue

Bitterblue, oh Bitterblue.  So the evil villain has been slain and his reign of terror ended, and now everything can be lovely again, right?  Oh, so very, very wrong.   That only happens in kids' stories.

Bitterblue's father was a very evil man who possessed a dangerous grace: he could make people believe anything he said.  His words literally had that power.  And he used it to take power over a kingdom and commit the kinds of atrocities that haunt a nation for generations.  Now he's been gone for years, and his daughter is struggling to pick up the pieces as a young queen.

Things start to turn around when Bitterblue starts going out to actually see how her people are living and what their lives are like in reality instead of from the stale and sterile numbers reported to her by her advisors.  Unfortunately, she finds out that the truth is very messy.  There are so many lies to undo, so many wrongs with no clear way to right.  And she's just a young ruler.  What is she supposed to do?  How can she fix her broken and hurting people?

I like realistic fantasy like this: Aftermaths can be brutal, and they don't get fixed overnight.  Messy politics and tragic situations and a variety of relationships make for a good read.   I also like worlds like this where peripheral characters visit each others' stories.  It was lovely to see Katsa and Po and lots of the others being active and finding purpose and working out their footing with each other.  It was wonderful to see the places where Fire intersected, as well.  These people are still growing people, not static, constructed characters.  There is a lot of shouting and making up and some unexpected visitors from afar and a lot of hard, sad choices and great bits about art, truth, and honor.  Good, good stuff.

Now I just have to wait for her next book.  Siiiiiiiigh.

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