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ajkuhn

Words, Worlds, Whorls

A place where I write reviews and keep track of what I want to read or have already read.

Bitterblue

Bitterblue - When I read Graceling, I complained and complained about how difficult it was to get through. So all my coworkers told me the same thing: if you think Graceling is slow, DO NOT READ BITTERBLUE. I guess what I failed to communicate was that I didn't think Graceling was slow, I hated it because of the general lack of likable characters. I liked Raffin...and that was about it.However, when I started reading Victor LaValle's Devil in Silver, I discovered that I couldn't concentrate on it for long stretches at a time, so I needed something light and easy to fill up some of my time while I took breaks from LaValle. I picked up Bitterblue expecting to struggle with it just as much as Graceling. That wasn't the case. There were so many likable, lovable, wonderful characters (and I don't necessarily mean Bitterblue, but more on that later) that I fairly sped-read the whole book.Reading these two books together might seem incongruous, but you'd be surprised how many parallels I found between an adult "literary horror" book that takes place in contemporary New York, in a psych hospital, and a teen fantasy book that takes place in a made-up realm. First of all, we're dealing with some seriously disturbed individuals. Second of all, secrets and secret passages and revolutions and everything that comes from too few people having too much control over too many others. So sometimes I'd be reading a passage from one book and it would remind me of something that happened in the other. Considering how rarely I read two books at once (that is to say never), it was quite an interesting surprise.Now don't even get me started on the fun and intriguing characters in Bitterblue. Teddy, Fox, Thiel, Tilda, Bren, Death (you can't help but feel for the poor librarian with a hundred million things to do, including obeying the whims of a spoiled queen)...even Saf didn't get under my skin as the "romantic counterpart" like Po did. Speaking of Po, we even get to see all our favorites from Graceling return. Katsa is happier than she ever was before, which made her a lot more pleasant to read about. I think it also helps to have a removed perspective, especially from the POV of someone who absolutely adores her. Raffin and Bann are also back, and we get to learn more about their relationship. Then there's Giddon, who we find is NOT the horrible, awful, annoying man he was in Graceling (or at least that's how Katsa always saw him), that he is actually quite intelligent and pleasant. By the end, I was kind of rooting for him and Bitterblue to have something going on, in spite of their age differences.Which brings me to the things that annoyed me about this book: namely, how the younger kids (Bitterblue, Saf, Teddy, etc) acted like they were about 14, while the older kids seemed more like 18 than 24-27. I realize this is a teenage fantasy, of course, but Bitterblue was too immature to seem like an adult, even a young one. I guess maybe that comes from being kept in the dark for so long. In fact, her immaturity seemed more reasonable than the others'. Every time Katsa and Po got into a wrestling match and then started making out in public, no matter how many people were watching, I got super uncomfortable and tried to think if I could imagine any of my late-twenties friends doing that.The other thing that annoyed me was that certain moments seemed rather implausible, but again I chalked it up to this being a fantasy book aimed at teenagers. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I didn't even mention getting a look inside the twisted mind of Leck. Or the fact that even though the setting stayed mostly within the castle, the story never stagnated because there was so much going on. Or how much I loved that Bitterblue loves puzzles and lists. Or...well, you get my point.