Author: Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #4
Published: 2021, Dial Books for Young Readers
My Grade: 3 out of 5
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.
It wasn’t that long ago that I read the first three books from Kristin Cashore. No, wait, it’s already been 7 years. In any case, I’ve since then thought that the Graceling Realm was one of my favorite series. I absolutely loved it. All the colors and vibrancy of the story. I especially loved Fire, the second novel. It was beautiful!
With that said, I had high expectations on this fourth instalment in the series. And I have to admit that it did not live up to them. Not even close. It was still a good read at the end, but it took me about half of it to really get into it and actually wanting to continue to read.
At first, I couldn’t sympathize with the characters. They didn’t feel real and alive and Lovisa’s behavior was unrealistic and erratic. It felt like she did things that didn’t quite follow a red thread. Or maybe that was the character, just acting strange and irregular. She became more real at the end though. Something changed in the middle of the book with lots of things. The same things goes with natural conversations that felt more real at the end.
The pacing was different throughout as well. Sometimes the story flowed really well, like the last half of the book. The first half on the other hand sometimes felt like a stutter, the flow just wasn’t there.
I know that it is a young adult fantasy story, but this one, I got the impression that it was aimed for a younger crowd than the previous three, even if Bitterblue had grown even more. That wouldn’t have been a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that there was a lot of sex. Not A Court of Thorns and Roses much, and no details, butstill, sex in many different scenes. It was a bit contradictory.
And the last thing, the names. All of the names were aligned with the previous story, all made up. And then comes the main character, Lovisa. Maybe it’s not a common name outside of Sweden, but for me it was super weird reading all of these fantasy names, and right in the middle of it all, was the basic Svensson-Swede Lovisa.
In any case, the story wrapped up nicely and got really exciting at the end and my general thought when finishing it was that it was a good read, even if I did struggle a bit in the beginning. But that was probably because of the disappointment from my high expectations. Maybe, the first three are similar, just that I forgot since it was so long ago I read them. I remember them being amazing without being able to tell exactly why, it’s just the general feeling. Like with His Golden Compass. I don’t think I want to reread any of the series just in case I will change my mind about them. Winterkeep will get a 3, no time was wasted while reading it. I’m not sure I will pick up the next one (unnamed at the time of writing this review) right away at release. Depends on my TBR-pile at that moment.