Building on the plots and themes of the award-winning Graceling (2008) and its companion Fire (2009), this rich and poignant fantasy grapples with the messy aftermath of destroying an evil overlord.
Nine years after Bitterblue took the crown, the young queen and her realm are still struggling to come to terms with the monstrous legacy of her father, the insane, mind-controlling Leck. How can she "look forward," as her advisors urge, when she cannot trust her memories of the past? Sneaking out of her castle, Bitterblue discovers that her people have not healed as much as she has been told. While "truthseekers" are determined to restore what Leck destroyed, others are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden. Gorgeous, textured prose is filled with images of strange beauty and restrained horror. It propels an intricate narrative dense with subplots and rich in characters familiar and new. Weaving them together are all the lies: conspiracies and ciphers, fakes and false testimony, spies and thieves, disguises and deceptions, mazes and puzzles. They are lies spun from greed, shame, strategy, fear, duty—even kindness. And it is Bitterblue who, trapped in this net of deceit, must draw upon all her courage, cleverness and ferocious compassion to reveal the truth—and to care for those it shatters.
Devastating and heartbreaking, this will be a disappointment for readers looking for a conventional happy ending. But those willing to take the risk will—like Bitterblue—achieve something even more precious: a hopeful beginning. (Fantasy. 14 & up)