In Which I Recommend ALL the Sequels
I suppose I should start this book review with an apology. I, personally, hate it when someone tells me I should read a second or third book in the series. The logical thing to do is say “I like the Hunger Games” and let the person you’re telling start the series and decided if they’d like to continue on. Saying “You have to read Catching Fire!!!” is just sort of mean.
So, I’m sorry that I’m recommending end-of-series books today…but, truly, they’re that good. If you haven’t had a chance to get Kristen Cashore’s Bitterblue or Holly Black’s Black Heart, you should probably remedy that soon!
Both these books are set in a fantastical reality but, aside from a rather magical otherness to the people, they’re entirely different books. So, I’ll start with Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue.
Bitterblue is the sequel to Graceling and companion novel of Fire. You’ll definitely want to have read both of these before reading this book as the characters and situations have had a lot of set up in the previous novels.
The world of Graceling is plagued by kings and queens whose power is absolute and absolutely abused. Enhanced people with ‘graces’ exist. Gracelings have superhuman abilities at the inhuman cost of being ‘owned’ by the King/Queen of the realm. And the main character of this third book? She’s Bitterblue, the queen of the realm of Monsea. Her father was the previous king – a hateful, vicious monarch that brought the country to the brink of ruin. Bitterblue is a very young queen struggling with her own identity, the demands of a kingdom, and the guilt about her father’s crimes.
The brilliance of this book is Bitterblue herself. She’s actually a rather ordinary eighteen year old dealing with extraordinary circumstances. As a result, it is easy to throw yourself into the story. It is easy to feel the ups and downs of Bitterblue’s life, her love, her misadventures and her struggle to overcome evil. The storytelling is remarkable and, at the end of it, you’ll wish that this book wasn’t the end of Cashore’s Graceling tales.
The Graceling tales are standard fantasy but if you’re a fan of gritty, urban fantasy – faeries and curses and magic in the modern world – and you haven’t heard of Holly Black, you’re missing out! Holly Black has a number of phenomenal series that are always fantastically dark and delicious. Her most recent series is the Curse Workers triology. Curse Workers is the story of Cassel Sharpe and the first book in the series is White Cat. Cassel is the youngest son in a family of curse workers – or people genetically able to work ‘magic’ with their hands. Such people often lead lives of crime. Cassel’s grandfather was a death worker, Cassel’s mother is in prison, his brothers are thugs…and Cassel has no special abilities and only dark, vague memories of murdering his best friend.
So, with a start like that, is it any wonder that I couldn’t wait to read the end of the trilogy? Black Heart came out in this April and the wait was well worth it! This book, like Cashore’s Bitterblue, won’t stand on its own. The world is so rich, the characters so complex, you’d best start at the very beginning.
So, yeah, I’m being mean. Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore and Black Heart by Holly Black are phenomenal series enders. If you’ve been reading along as these series have been published, wait no longer on finishing ‘em. If you’re just hearing about them for the first time…sorry…but you should really check ‘em out!
Kristen Cashore: Holly Black: