Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Burden of Power

Kristin Cashore
If Graceling was about owning one’s own power, and Fire was about deciding when the use of power is appropriate and when it is not, then Bitterblue is about exploring what it’s like to have power over the fates of others. In this election year, Kristin Cashore (author of all three books in the Graceling series) raises searching questions about leadership—how much autonomy to grant others and when to determine certain decisions on their behalf.

In the case of 18-year-old Queen Bitterblue, her father, King Leck, twisted the truth. He wiped out the memories and experiences of his citizenry after inflicting unspeakable crimes against them as individuals and as a citizenry. Bitterblue feels compelled to confront those truths herself but then must decide how much of that information to release and to whom. Would it be healing or do greater damage to make public some of these facts? And how can she remedy the hurt her father caused to so many of his subjects? It’s a daunting task, and she has few people she can trust, surrounded as she is by her father’s men, who must come to terms with their own guilt, sorrow and grief.

Her only reliable means of gathering the truth is to disguise herself as a male and take to the streets. But that comes with its own perils. As the daughter of a king that wronged a nation, she has few friends and many enemies, but she feels it’s worth the risk to get to the truth. One of the great injustices she discovers is that her father made it a crime to teach others to read. As someone who thrives on education and loves to learn, Bitterblue finds this one of the greatest travesties of her father’s reign.  As she strives to bring about justice, Bitterblue also finds laughter and love, enjoys the friendships of Katsa and Po (from Graceling), and discovers friendly neighbors and possible allies.

Kristin Cashore once again explores the questions at the center of the human experience: the pursuit of truth and justice, and the need for a society that allows people to thrive as individuals.


  1. This whole trilogy sounds good. I'm curious, with an 18-year-old protagonist, are these books considered young adult, or a part of that relatively newer category, that delves into the lives of post-high school age characters?

    Just curious how that element comes across in these stories as that can be a difficult aspect to make believable.

    But, promising reads for sure. Thanks.

    1. Hi Heather,
      These are considered young adult books, and they grapple with issues of becoming an adult--handling responsibility, evaluating friendships and loyalties, and also awakening sexuality (FIRE and BITTERBLUE more candidly than in GRACELING, where it's a bit more subtle). I do think the books are solidly aimed at high school age, though there's likely some crossover into adult readers. Thanks for writing! With all my best, Jenny