Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.
But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.
Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.
Winterkeep starts off a few years after the ending of Bitterblue. I thought this was an interesting choice since much of this series has had a focus on Bitterblue. She feels like the heart of this series. But this time, we’re seeing Bitterblue as a fully established Queen. We’re also not only following Bitterblue, but we get Giddon’s point of view as well as a young teenager from Winterkeep. Lovisa Cavenda was my biggest problem with this book. I’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
I really liked getting to see more of this world. I thought it was interesting that instead of seeing more of Monsea or the Dells, we see a whole new part of the world. This book primarily takes place in Winterkeep. A newly discovered place that is a part of Torla. Monsea is Winterkeep’s closest neighbor. I though this new place was interesting. They’re more technologically advanced than Monsea, they have airships which was a fun addition to the story. But not everything is as it seems in Winterkeep. When two of Bitterblue’s envoys die suspiciously, it’s decided that Bitterblue, Giddon, and some advisors are going to travel there.
This is when the story really starts to get going. Like her previous books, this one was a bit slow going. But I still enjoyed it. I listened to the audiobook and I really loved the narrator. They did a great job with all the different characters and voices. I would definitely listen to more audiobooks with this narrator. Now, the characters.
Bitterblue is the same girl we came to know and love from the previous books. But at times, it felt like she forgot that she was a literal queen and made herself smaller because of the situation she managed to get into. I still loved her though.
Giddon was interesting because he’s grieving for most of this book. We see him lose control of his emotions again and again. But he’s still the same Giddon from the previous books. I thought it was interesting to see him express himself, we get to see him let his emotions out, but still mostly manage to focus on the goal he came to Winterkeep to achieve.
Now, Lovisa. She’s the daughter of two people in the Winterkeep parliament. But they are both of opposing political parties. There’s a bit of unrest in Winterkeep as an important vote is about to come up. Lovisa made me mad because she could have been an amazing character. But she finds out about things her parents have done and instead of telling literally anyone, she keeps it all to herself. She eventually tries to fix the situation, but things get so much worse before she does that. I just wanted her to do something, anything really. Because of her inaction, people are killed. I also didn’t like how she used people. She has sex with a few different people in this book, which is fine, but she uses sex to get herself out of trouble and that led to others getting in trouble. She almost used it as a weapon, and then felt bad about it. I didn’t like that. I think people should have sex with whoever they want, but Lovisa always knew she wasn’t doing the right thing and felt bad about it afterward. It also seemed like she was attracted to girls, but that wasn’t ever confirmed so it felt like queerbating. I just genuinely didn’t like Lovisa, which was a bummer because she had the potential to be a really interesting character.
Overall, despite not liking one of the main characters, I still enjoyed this book. There’s interesting politics that we see unfold. There’s action, adventure, but there’s also several different emotional journeys that we get to see unfold. I also was very intrigued by the blue foxes that are well known in Winterkeep. I’ll be interested to see if/how they play a part in future books. I liked that we got to see characters we know and already love, but we also got to get to know some new ones. If you liked the first three Graceling books, I think you’ll like this one too.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.