3.5 Stars Bitterblue takes place 9 years after Graceling, and Bitterblue is Queen of Monsea, a kingdom her father left damaged - aesthetically, structurally, emotionally. She's hemmed in by the duties of her castle, the demands of her advisors and her own inexperience, frustrated by her inability to affect change in her kingdom. Leck's particularly harrowing brand of malevolence creates a responsibility to repair the kingdom, but Bitterblue doesn't know how. If the horrifying prologue is any indication, Leck's legacy may take generations to filter out. There is mystery in this book. Unexplained behaviors, framing for murders, ciphers, theft, and a lot of lying. But it never culminated in ONE thing that seemed the threaten either Bitterblue or her kingdom. The villain seemed throughout the book, and in the end of it, to still be the long-dead Leck. And even though his influence is everywhere, is he a true threat? I never felt like he was. I felt like much of the story was convoluted and over-long in what was really a very straightforward explanation. I felt like I knew the major players from the get-go, but the story was written to make me think I didn't. And then when I was proven right, it was anticlimactic, and I wanted more. (In a sense, I felt much like Bitterblue - these people are nuts, they are hiding something, but I should trust them, but I don't. Oh look. I was right all along. Waa wah.) There was no overall sense of urgency, except in short, tight action scenes. Still, the book is engrossing. And I enjoyed reading how Bitterblue comes into her queenship and womanhood. I didn't care for Fire's appearance. I felt it was a stretch, but I get it. Overall, the relationships propelled me to care about this book, and not the plot.