Cashore’s sequel to Graceling, starts off where most books end, after the Happy Ending. Bitterblue’s father, the evil King Leck, has been gone for eight years, but the kingdom is still reeling from the after effects of his mental and physical abuses. Bitterblue, who knows first-hand how horrible her father was, tries to make amends, but finds herself blocked at every road.
Feeling caged and useless, she sneaks from the castle to visit the city. There her real understanding of Leck’s awful legacy begins when she is faced with how people are still trying to cope and how others take advantage of that. With new understanding she has to take control of her advisors, her kingdom, but, most all, herself in order to bring a true peace to her abused people.
This book is not about the romance of being queen, but the nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day cares that go into governing, treating people fairly and kindly. Bitterblue can take care of herself in a fight, afterall, she was taught by Katsa, but what really makes her stand out is her wonderful intelligence, her cleverness and her ability to love and care.