This is one of the best books I've read in the past few months, and while it's not perfect, I really did enjoy it.
I'm a fan of fantasy where the focus is on the plot and characters rather than some angst-y romance, but for others, this book might seem a bit slow-going and long. I suppose part of what made the book seem to go at a fine pace for me was that Bitterblue was a character one could relate to.
While she is the queen of Monsea, Bitterblue isn't really able to do much, nor does she know much about her kingdom. It's her propensity toward curiosity and searching for the truth that probably sealed her as a likable character, in my opinion. She's fairly bumble, and while she did have moments where I wanted to shake her, I felt like she was true to her character, and those moments were just a part of her well-rounded, flawed character.
I thought Cashore's characterization and world-building in general were great. Cashore's world was very complex, and I didn't feel as if any of the major characters were cardboard cut-outs or stereotypes. Her plot-weaving, while at times a bit messy, was also complex, and certain "big" moments were revealed well and timed right.
The best example of that I think would be when Thiel revealed that Leck compelled him and others to rape little girls, cut them, and commit other atrocities. It was heart-wrenching to read, and it really made me hate Leck at that moment. Villains are easy to dislike and be annoyed with, but to really care about hating a character like Leck - I think that's definitely an achievement on Cashore's part. I was crying when I read the part where Thiel jumped, and while I understand the necessity of it, I was saddened nevertheless. Thiel reminded me of a grandfather who'd gone through life, and I was glad to see Bitterblue try to stop him.
I suppose among things that could have been improved, the pacing could have been quicker and the revealing of secrets and new plot threads could have been a bit cleaner, but none of this really bothered me. This book was a good fit for me personally, and I'll definitely be reading any future books that Kristin Cashore writes.
4.5 out of 5 stars