Pow­er­less hero­ine stands out

Kapi-Mana News - - REVIEW -

Kristin Cashore – Bit­terblue (Gol­lancz)

One of the best things about Kristin Cashore’s ro­mances is there are few hap­pily-ever-af­ters.

Of course, the down­side to this is there are few typ­i­cal hap­pily-ever-af­ters.

Cashore is a stand-out fan­tasy au­thor in a time over­sat­u­rated with books star­ring se­duc­tive vam­pires, dash­ing fairies and the oc­ca­sional hairy but hunky were­wolf.


Cashore, on the other hand, writes vi­brant, three­d­i­men­sional char­ac­ters, with plots that don’t rely on magic as their deus ex machina. And there are never, thank God, any vam­pires.

Her sto­ries are fo­cused on plot and char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment more than on ro­mance. The love sto­ries don’t al­ways end neatly. There are gay char­ac­ters strug­gling with a so­ci­ety that doesn’t recog­nise them, and char­ac­ters who don’t be­lieve in mar­riage or don’t want to have chil­dren.

There are real prob­lems real peo­ple have, that ‘‘love’’ can’t mag­i­cally solve.

Bit­terblue is dif­fer­ent from Cashore’s first two nov­els, Gracel­ing and Fire, in that the main char­ac­ter – 18-year-old Queen Bit­terblue – is not a strong hero­ine. She has gone through years of phys­i­cal and men­tal abuse, and in the eight years since her abuser was killed, she hasn’t re­cov­ered. She doesn’t trust her­self or any­one else. She feels pow­er­less. This novel deals as much with Bit­terblue’s char­ac­ter growth as it does with the po­lit­i­cal in­trigue and treach­ery the young queen be­gins to un­cover at court.

The writ­ing is not per­fect, but Cashore makes up for this with her strong char­ac­ter­i­sa­tions, sus­pense­ful plot­lines, and re­al­is­tic re­la­tion­ships.

When Bit­terblue ended, I wanted to keep on read­ing. Partly be­cause I was so en­grossed; partly be­cause, in typ­i­cal Cashore fash­ion, not ev­ery­one was paired off into hap­pily-ever-af­ters at the end of the book. I want to know what hap­pens next!

Ruth Far­rell

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