[A quick note: I love showing off my Fairyloot set of Graceling books. This series is so stunning both in writing and in physical beauty. I mean, look at these covers. And all the gold foiling is so much prettier in person. I discovered after reading this that there is a 5th book in the works. I am so excited! Also, I was rather chuffed with myself for remembering to use one of the furry critters in my critters collection. The blue fox is for Ad’s character because he was just so adorable!]
“𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲’𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐦𝐞. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐈’𝐦 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲’𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐦𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥.”—Kristin Cashore
I always enjoy dropping back into the Graceling world, where people have magical abilities called “Graces.” This story mainly follows Bitterblue, Giddon, and a new character named Lovisa. When Bitterblue discovers a new kingdom, she and Giddon leave Monsea for Winterkeep where they discover a terrible plot to bring war to Bitterblue’s kingdom. There’s tons of suspense, intrigue, and even a dash of romance. In fact, this one was extremely hard to put down and I read most of it in one sitting!
What if you had to choose between doing what’s morally right or destroying your family? How would you handle that? My favorite part of this book was Lovisa’s character. She’s refreshingly flawed! Lovisa is a sixteen year old university student who comes from a troubled home. Her parents, who are both rich and highly political, are not the best role models. They’re also not the best parents. But she doesn’t see this immediately. It shapes how Lovisa makes her decisions. She’s a bit of a sneak and a troublemaker, which is what pulls her into the deeply alarming plot against Bitterblue. Lovisa must make some very hard decisions that bring her immense emotional stress and guilt. Watching her grapple with that stress felt realistic and I appreciated that.
The evolution of world building in this installment was so fun! Unlike the “Royal Continent” which is made of the seven kingdoms, Winterkeep is a territory from a highly advanced civilization (in comparison). There are trains, air ships, universities, evolved political systems, and much more. Of course, there’s still uniquely magical aspects like cute telepathic talking foxes and the “silbercows” which seem to be a sort of sea lion-dolphin creature that’s…purple? And save people’s lives like dolphins.
I enjoyed learning about Winterkeep’s politics, political parties, and its way of life, down to the interesting shopping districts that trap people and require them to make a purchase if they want to leave. Hah! Can you imagine? Going to a shopping mall and not being allowed to leave unless you buy something?
Of course, the other aspect I loved was Bitterblue and Giddon’s relationship. I saw hints of it emerging in the previous book. But getting to see how extreme circumstances made them come to some very concrete conclusions about themselves and their feelings was highly satisfying. I had hoped for a bit more page time with them together. But it was still wonderful seeing them together. I might have squealed and smiled and set the book down when they reunited. Romance is always my favorite aspect of a book.
I really adore this series and cannot wait for the 5th book with Hava. Itss whimsical qualities, good light-hearted feel make it perfect for all ages. 𝐌𝐘 𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆: 𝟒.𝟓/𝟓⭐️