YA novel (series: Graceling)
"Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign."
Maybe it's because I read this after absolutely despising Neuromancer but I loved this book to bits and pieces and even more after that. I'd read the others in the series (Graceling and Fire) and loved them but Bitterblue is perhaps the best of the trilogy. It's like 550 pages long and yet not long enough. I pretty much read it in one long swoop because it was just so enjoyable.
The world building is fantastic-there's just enough history that you didn't need to read the other books set in this world but not too much that you are ever bogged down. And the characters. THE CHARACTERS. The tragedies got me to cry and the humor got me to chuckle and laugh. It all felt so real while reading it partially because the whole national PTSD was so relevant even to our world. I kept feeling like there should be truth-seeking commissions like there were in Rwanda and all that pain was so visceral. The kingdom was scarred but the hope was palpable. The world was horrible, painful and cruel but the strength and courage in it was so strong.
The plot was well paced with a bit of lightness (a romance...this is YA after all) that doesn't interfere with the true concern of the book. How does one move on? They don't, like Thiel (genuinely made me cry) or they try to preserve, like Death (Deeth) (otherwise known as my new 2nd favorite librarian) or they look to the future, like Teddy, etc. There are so many multi-faceted characters populate these pages that I ended up reading the glossary to make it last longer-extend my fix as it were.
A fantasy novel with true depth.