A trend in fantasy series’ that I really enjoy is when each book is about a different character, but the characters from previous books appear or are involved in some way in the later books. Tamora Pierce does this very well and Kristin Cashore does it admirably as well. I was saying the other day that Kristin Cashore is one of my favourite YA High Fantasy writers currently writing today (as the genre is still… pretty small). (Also, as a side note, straight high fantasy. Other YA high fantasy writers that come to mind are Leigh Bardugo but the Russian tinge to her series puts it in a different category in my mind.) I admit it’s been a very long time since I read Graceling (due for a reread this summer!) so in the very beginning I struggled to tie the pieces together that connected Bitterblue to Graceling. As Bitterblue takes place eight years into the future, though, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out after I got farther into the book. This book delighted me for so many reasons. One was that it was highly political in that it centered on Bitterblue, a young queen who is struggling to put a broken kingdom back together after her father’s tyrannous reign. This kind of story is really really difficult to pull off from what I’ve encountered. To be able to go through the slightly more mundane elements of a queen’s life while still keeping it entertaining enough that it isn’t slow takes talent. And the book never was slow even for it’s 500+ pages. The cast was delightful even though I was on multiple occasions thankful for the character guide in the back (I was always getting Bitterblue’s four advisors mixed up.) I adored the role that Po and Katsa played in the novel. I love seeing main characters in other characters’ points of view. It actually made me love them even more than I did from reading Graceling. Bitterblue as a character was a marvel. She was a girl struggling with a dark past she couldn’t remember and a present in which information was hidden from her and secrets were being kept from her. Political intrigue and conspiracy theories abounded in this book as in addition to the mess that Bitterblue was going through, there was also an entire plot that dealt with Katsa and Po as they worked to depose the tyrannical kings of the seven kingdoms. I’ve seen Cashore’s books under fire before for the things that I, admittedly, love about them. Marriage is never at the forefront of any of the female protagonists minds (ever! Katsa is opposed to marriage bless her heart). It’s more of a personal quirk of mine but I appreciate a cast of three separate female protagonists (Katsa, Fire, and Bitterblue) who have romantic interests but don’t have marriage as the tie up at the end of the books. I love Cashore’s inclusion of gay and lesbian characters as well. (Raffin and Bann though bless their hearts too.) All in all I’m just so happy with this book. It was a take on high fantasy that isn’t done very often and it was done so well. It was woven with linguistic bits and ciphers and new Graces and countless other things that gave it added flavour. The conspiracy was handled so well and everything was paced so well. At times I actually wondered how it wasn’t dragging because the subject matter was such that in another book it would have had slow moments. I never felt bored, though, and the characters were all too delightful. I'm just so pleased with everything right now because of this book.