Tag Archives: monsters

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

23 Aug

When he grabs Mama’s wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I was a naive library school student doing my practicum in New York Public Library’s amazeballs Teen Central. During a discussion of what to recommend to teen girls to get them reading about strong female leads rather than dippy, self-loathing Bella, the lovely librarians of Teen Central introduced me Kristin Cashore‘s Graceling Realm.

For the uninitiated, and because this is the third book in the sequence (though the second book, Fire, takes place before Graceling or Bitterblue), let me try to do a brief summation: gracelings are people born with preternatural abilities.  Leck, who features in all three novels and is one of the most terrifying literary figures I have ever encountered, ruled the kingdom of Monsea for decades without anyone knowing he was graced. You see, Leck had the ability to control minds, to make people believe everything he said to them. He manipulated their memories and their free will just to please his psychotic whims until Katsa, the heroine of Graceling (graced super power: survival and general badassery) threw a dagger through his open mouth and killed him (holler!), thereby rescuing his young daughter, Bitterblue, and liberating Monsea from a sadistic tyrant.

Bitterblue is the story of the eponymous young queen, now eighteen, who inherited her psychopathic father’s throne after Katsa assassinated him. Stifled by her four overprotective advisers (who are all suffering from varying degrees of PTSD, I should add) and wanting desperately to help her kingdom move forward from its collective trauma but feeling woefully out of touch with the reality of her city,  Bitterblue makes like a teenager, disguises herself as a commoner, and sneaks out at night. She spends evening after evening in her city’s storyhouses, listening to tales of her father’s tyranny and her friends’ heroism. She meets two young men, Teddy and Saf, a printer and a thief,  and as their friendship develops a conspiracy begins to unfold that threatens her life, her kingdom, and the healing it so desperately needs.

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

30 Apr

I have pushed Patrick Ness‘ bleak dystopian Chaos Walking trilogy on just about every reader I know for the past couple of years. You don’t like science fiction? I don’t give a damn, and why are we even friends, anyways? Whereas the Chaos Walking books read like 1,000 pages of tears and anxiety attacks (and I mean that in the very best way), his newest offering, A Monster Calls is a sombre, graphic exploration of guilt and loss adapted from Siobhan Dowd‘s final offering, unable to be completed due to her death.

The first time the monster visits thirteen-year-old Conor at seven minutes past midnight he is not frightened, but relieved that it is not the same monster he has been dreaming (nightmaring?) of since his mother first started her cancer treatments. This monster is a manifestation of the ancient mythological Green Man, and it has come to tell Conor three stories. In exchange, the monster wants one thing: the truth. As the monster’s visits continue, its stories of destruction and rage become indistinguishable from Conor’s own violent outbursts in reaction to his mother’s rapidly deteriorating condition, so that the reader is left to wonder whether the monster is real or if it is just a fevered imagining of Conor’s disturbed and grief-stricken mind.

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