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Kristin Cashore
ISBN 9780803734739
Dial/Penguin, 2012.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: betrayal bitterblue family friendship kristin-cashore leadership power

by Kristin Cashore

This third book of the Graceling series takes readers back to the seven kingdoms. In a Monsea devoid of the terrifying King Leck, whose Grace was to fog people's minds (and who acts as the through line in all three books), Bitterblue, his now 18-year-old daughter, rules as queen.

Bitterblue, fed up with her advisers' attempts to thwart her inquiries, walks her city's darkened streets disguised as a boy. Bitterblue is a coming-of-age story in which the heroine realizes she can truly trust only herself. Her nightly outings lead her to "story rooms" where fablers recount historical events and legends. On several nights, she meets two young men: Saf (short for Sapphire), a graceling who says he knows not what his Grace is, and Teddy, a kind and well-read printer. They begin to confide in "Sparks," as they call her (she conceals her true identity), and she develops feelings for Saf.

Saf and Teddy belong to a group of truthseekers attempting to bring about their own kind of justice as recompense for her father's transgressions. Bitterblue discovers her advisers are keeping things from her. Are they compromising her safety? Meanwhile, Po and Katsa--the heroes of Graceling--arrive to inform the queen that King Drowden has been deposed in Nander, and the people of Estill are mounting a coup against King Thigpen. Cashore's plot will sweep readers up while she explores larger themes of the vital need for literacy and the nature of truth and trust.

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness.
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