This is another book that drew me in immediately and then suddenly fell apart on me.
Bitterblue starts 8 years after Graceling ended and follows Bitterblue's attempts to discover the truth behind Leck's reign and to help everyone in her kingdom heal from 35 years of horror. It started off really well. We were immediately shown just how crazy things were in Monsea, even after all these years. All these strange mysteries and questions surround Bitterblue, and she's growing frustrated with how little things make sense, so she begins to sneak out to see the city for herself. There she meets Saf and Teddy, two boys trying to set things right as well, and Bitterblue begins to realize how little she knows.
I don't know exactly when the book started to fall apart for me, but I started to grow exasperated with Bitterblue halfway through. I don't know how, but I feel like she was more intelligent, mature, and perceptive in Graceling, when she was only 10. The things she didn't know grew more ridiculous as the book went on. I could understand a lot of the things she didn't know, like the true state of things in the city—she's being fed false information and has no reason to suspect that it is false. However, there are no excuses for some of the things. She doesn't know a lot of the layout of her own castle (and she's been living there without Leck's influence for 8 years now), can't recognize her own guards who are around her quarters 24/7, hadn't noticed statues of her or her mother that weren't hidden at all, didn't notice a ton of other pieces of artworks throughout the castle that suddenly draw her attention now, and a lot of other things that I can't even remember anymore. Let's just say, there were a lot of moments where I was just going, "How could you not know that?!" We're supposed to believe that Bitterblue is so focused on the truth of everything and has been since she was a child, but apparently she didn't do anything about learning stuff until she turned 18. I mean, people will come to her castle and within a short time know the layout of it better than her. Not even joking.
The book also treats every single mystery as being of equal importance, which grows annoying when minor things are being given the same attention as people being systematically killed off in her city. Exploring a randomly discovered tunnel was given priority over people dying. This ended up letting this book connect to Fire more, but considering I disliked a lot of what happened in that book to the point where I rewrote it in my head, I was less than pleased to be reminded of everything in it. Despite all the hints about the Dells throughout the story, I didn't really think it ultimately fit with the story. I was reminded of how I felt about Leck in Fire.
The romance in this was thankfully not too much of a focus of the story because I could not understand the draw between Bitterblue and Saf. Especially after the crown incident. I went from liking Saf as a character to being annoyed by him after that. It was really obvious that they'd never work out as a couple, so whenever the focus turned to their drama, I just wanted it to end. Honestly, I felt Bitterblue and Giddon had far more of a connection than she ever had with Saf. And they would have been far more interesting to me as well.
I liked getting to see Katsa, Po, Raffin, Bann, and Giddon from Graceling. Whenever they were in the story, things improved for me. However, they were constantly coming and going, so my interest kept coming and going as well.
I expected the book to be more about Bitterblue getting over what Leck did, similar to how things were for Fire getting over Cansrel. However, she didn't really seem to be all that affected because she was protected from everything. And she had no patience for the people who took the brunt of Leck's abuse in her place who actually were trying to get past things. Bitterblue seemed perfectly fine, just annoyed that she didn't know the truth about everything immediately. She'd get mad at other people for having breakdowns or not being able to cope perfectly everyday, which started to make me mad after a while. Especially when she kept purposely triggering people and then getting mad at them for being triggered. At one point near the end of the book, she talks about how she just made a mess of things throughout the book, and, while others assured her she didn't, I was just yelling, "Yes! Yes, you did! Ask people you trust for advice and then actually listen to it!"
Basically, I started the book as a fan of Bitterblue. I didn't end as one. I liked 10 year old Bitterblue. I can't say the same about 18 year old Bitterblue.