Powerless heroine stands out
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!