Welcome to another Road Trip Wednesday, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs.
This week’s topic is:
What was the best book you read in March?
March has been a disturbing drought in reading, as a million other things have popped up. But I was lucky enough to read one book in particular that left my brain whirring.
I was exceedingly fortunate to have received a copy of the ARC (thanks, Sash!), and set about thinking I would devour Bitterblue as I had Cashore’s other books, Graceling (to which Bitterblue is the sequel) and Fire.
But this book resists purge-style reading. It is truly different from any YA—actually make that any—book I’ve read before.
I’m going to make this post spoiler-free, so I’m sorry if it’s frustratingly vague. Let’s start with what everyone knows, the description from Goodreads:
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.
Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.
Even after eight years, Monsea has hardly begun to recover from having its collective mind warped by King Leck. Bitterblue herself is still struggling to deal with the death of her mother, at Leck’s hands. Though Bitterblue believes she’s doing what she can to bring Monsea back to normal, odd stories in town and strange statues, topiaries, and wall-hangings in the castle hint that Leck’s madness still taints her kingdom.
Cashore weaves an intricate story that reads almost more like a mind experiment: when you wake up from a fog to realize your mind has been toyed with, how do you determine what is real? How do you find the courage to trust it again? And words, story, history—the power of communicating among a people what happened and what is happening, of finding a common narrative—play a major role as well.
Bitterblue is confused, sad, naive, and privileged. She’s impulsive, needy, brave, and compassionate. Cashore spends more than 500 words giving Bitterblue layer upon layer of depth and growth, and still at the end she is a woman in progress. It’s a beautiful thing, something I relished especially after reading Phoebe North’s lovely post urging the propagation of more complicated, imperfect women and girls in YA.
I recently lent the book to a friend, and I’m dying for more people to read it. Because I genuinely felt, as I finished the last page (hell, I felt it even more after I read the acknowledgments) that this is a book that requires time and discussion to be truly appreciated. For this, for Graceling and Fire, and for her recent incredible post on The Hunger Games that made me strangely emotional, I’d like to thank Kristin Cashore, and urge her to please, please keep writing. She’s given me another wonderful journey.
What about you?? What was the best book you read this month?