Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Daring an opposite to every danger

The first book in the Graceling trilogy was mostly captivating but really slow towards the end (the characters wander in the mountains for months). The second book, Fire, was the opposite: it took me a while to get into it (more wandering across rugged terrain), but the last half had court intrigues that made slogging through the first half worth it. Bitterblue, the last book, ties together the stories from the first two. But even better, it didn't bore me for any part.

Though each book can stand alone and the reader doesn't need to read them together or in order, they do fit together nicely. Fire is the prequel to Graceling, taking place decades before in a faraway kingdom where beautifully-hued "monsters" mesmerize their victims. Bitterblue picks up 9 years after Graceling, when a child queen comes of age and faces the difficult task of healing a kingdom scarred by her sadistic, psychopathic father's reign of cruelty.

One cool theme throughout the trilogy (besides strong-willed young female protagonists) was the idea that women can defend themselves and that happily-ever-after romances are the stuff of unrealistic fairy tales. In these books, the heroines don't want marriage or a traditional gendered relationship, and they are jarringly realistic about sex and love and time. Nothing wraps up neatly, whether it's the fate of a local uprising or the future of a budding friendship.

Bitterblue left me wanting more stories from this intricate, nuanced world. But alas! As a trilogy, though, it was epically satisfying.