Series Spacing specifically regarding my most recent read, Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore. The first book in this trilogy is entitled Graceling and focused on gifted "graceling" fighters named Katsa and Po who lived in the land of the seven kingdoms. Through their adventures they come to know that they are beautiful and worthy of love, and they save Princess Bitterblue of the land of Monsea from the killing hand of her wicked father King Leck. Leck is gifted with the power of mind control and he has used it to keep his subjects until his boot for some 35 years. The second book in this series is entitled Fire. This book is a prequel to Graceling, taking place in a neighboring kingdom some three decades before. It told the story of a land of monsters, a land of greed, and a small contingent of leaders trying to save their kingdom. I read both novels last summer and absolutely loved them both. Then I had to wait a year for the last book in the trilogy to see the light of day. Bitterblue certainly did not disappoint.
This coda to the series re-introduces us to Bitterblue, now queen of the land of Monsea, some 8 years after the end of Graceling. We find a land that is still living (apparently) in the cloud of destruction wrought by Leck. However, Bitterblue's main advisors, who also served under Leck, have led her to believe that the kingdom is recovering and content. This carefully crafted facade begins to crumble down little by little as Bitterblue, who has effectively been confined to the confines of her castle under an endless mound of duties, sneaks out one night into the heart of her city. There she makes friends with two men, Teddy and Sapphire, in a local pub where stories and legends are told. This meeting leads to new friendships as well as a growing list of questions about reality in the kingdom of Monsea vs. what she has always been told is the truth.
This story represents a worthwhile addition to the tales of the first two books. Like Katsa in Graceling, Bitterblue makes for an interesting and sympathetic protagonist, yet the two ladies could not be more different in most respects. The only perplexing aspect of this story were the dozen or so statements regarding gay characters. They weren't an organic part of the story and their inclusion was forced, completely irrelevant, and distracting. Yet apart from this unfortunate happening, this was a most enjoyable read.