Kristin Cashore is the New York Times bestselling author of Graceling and Fire. Graceling and Fire were both named ALA Best Books for Youth Adults in addition to other awards. Basically, Cahsore rocks. And...her third book is coming out in May!!! I am lucky enough to have read Bitterblue already, so now I'm going to evangelize all about it so you'll all place a hold on it before it comes out.
To start with, Graceling and Fire are companion novels to Bitterblue. You don't have to read them to follow the story, but knowledge of them will enhance your enjoyment of the story (and anyway, they are awesome). Bitterblue takes place after Graceling.
King Leck ruled Monsea for years. His grace (the ability to control people's minds) and his violent psychopathic personality, destroyed his kingdom. Eventually he was overthrown and murdered and his daughter Bitterblue was left to help the kingdom recover. Because Bitterblue became queen as young child she was very dependent on her advisors. She is now 18 and for the first time, decides she needs to try to understand her kingdom more completely. In the hopes of learning more about the land she rules, Bitterblue begins to sneak out at night in disguise. She visits local story rooms and listens to people tell tales of the crazy King Leck and she discovers that her people are still wounded and seeking the truth about their past. Bitterblue is determined to help them heal, but first, needs to unravel the mystery of her own past. She uncovers distrubing secrets about her insane father Leck. Even more disturbing, she learns that Leck still has a hold on some people in her kingdom--a secret that she must bring to light and deal with if her kingdom is to heal and she is to become a strong queen.
Bitterblue truly is a gripping story. Although it is long and starts slow, the richness of the detail, the depth of the characters and the intricate plot will pay off. It's the kind of book you will stay up late into the night to finish once you get going. More than anything, I love the rock-star-tough-feminist heroines Cashore places in her books. So...read, and enjoy.