Narrator: Xanthe Elbrick
Series: Graceling Realm #4
Published by Listening Library on January 19, 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: 16 hours, 31 minutes
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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.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the Gracing Realm series by Kristin Cashore. Bitterblue in particular is a favorite character of mine throughout the series and so I was so happy to see that Winterkeep is another story that involves Bitterblue, years after she became the Queen.
It is time to explore an entire new land in the Gracing world, one with telepathic sea animals and blue foxes that bond with humans. A place where the political machinations are extreme and the country is in on a precipice with a big political decision in the balance. The story is told from multiple PoVs so the reader gets insight into all the machinations happening throughout.
Bitterblue has lost two of her envoys in a strange sinking of their ship. They sent word before being lost at sea though that something was amiss and Bitterblue needed to look into a fuel that is used by most of the realms. She wants to learn more about it herself and so, with her best friend Giddon and her graceling half sister, she takes off to get answers. Everything does not go to plan and Bitterblue ends up in a new kind of danger.
Lovisa Cavenda, the daughter of a scholar and politician is thrust smack dab in the middle of something much bigger than she ever thought. Her parents are not who she thought they were and she will become a big part of figuring out what is going on and why the little Queen has disappeared. Lovisa will have some very hard decisions to make, but she is a curious sort and once on the trail of a good mystery will not let it lay.
The Graceling series is an older one and so I think for fans of the series this will be hit or miss. It was a hit for me as I loved seeing what happened with Bitterblue after her very dark book. I wanted to see how she and Giddon got along and I was happy with the resolution to that storyline. I loved getting to see a new land and how different it was from some of the others we have already visited. For me this was a really good read in a world I missed. That said, Graceling was published over a decade ago and it is an old school fantasy. I’m not sure if you are starting the series how well it will hold up, but I did really like it back when I first read it.
“They’re stronger than me. But I’m stronger then the way they’re trying to make me feel.”
“No one can do anything with politics and government,” Lovisa said scornfully. “It’s just two bickering sides who are exactly the same, pretending to fight about good sense and ideals when really it’s all about money.”
Xanthe Elbrick seems like the perfect pick for the narration of the story. She has been the narrator since the second book in the series and has the voice and the emotional conveyance down to really give the reader a great performance of the book. I was able to listen to this at my usual 1.5x speed.
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