Two reviews- Bitterblue and Small Change for Stuart

And again- I don’t want to flood anybody’s inbox, so I’m posting two reviews at once. Here you go!

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore:

Bitterblue is the sequel to Graceling (excellent book!) and the companion to Fire (also excellent!).

I liked it.

I think that Cashore faced quite a challenge here- A story about young queen in impossibly hard circumstances who is loaded down with paperwork needs to be relevant and interesting. And Bitterblue was definitely relevant and interesting. I think my 3 out of 5 star rating is simply because… Graceling was better. And that’s just the unfortunate part about sequels- they will always be compared to the first book.

When I think about it, there was a lot of action in the book (chases, stabbing, fighting, etc), but nothing ever hurried me to turn the page. It all seemed to move at a comfortable pace- there was no urgency. And although Bitterblue the queen was relevant, she was not Katsa and she was not Fire. She was much more… average. Which helps the relatability but hurts the intrigue.

That being said, I love that the whole thing centered around truth- the importance of truth, the painfulness of truth, the fear of truth. That was excellent. And Cashore did another very tricky thing well when she made the reader grow right along with Bitterblue. At the beginning of the story, I agreed with Bitterblue’s decisions, and at the end of the story, as Bitterblue grew and changed those decisions, I agreed with her there, too. It was a very satisfying feeling to grow alongside her and look back onto our earlier folly a mere 300 pages ago.

Good work, Ms. Cashore. I’m excited for your next book, whatever it may be!

 

Small Change for Stuart or Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans (I found it published under Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms at my library).

I really liked this charming, enchanting little book! At my library, I found it under the name “Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms,” but I like the name “Small Change for Stuart” much better. (It is the same book, I promise!)

Basic premise: Stuart finds a message and some coins from a mysteriously disappeared great uncle who was a famous magcian. Now he’s on a 50-year-old treasure hunt for his uncle’s long-lost workshop.

For one, this is a book that I would actually recommend to a real child. And I would be confident that the child would like it! That is, unfortunately, not a thing I would say about a lot of book award nominees.

I love the quirky characters. I really feel like I’m seeing everything from Stuart’s (diminutive) perspective. I love his lofty parents and his epically nosy neighbors. I find the magic to be magical and I think the magician’s tricks have a cool steampunk edge to them.

This story has a driving plot that keeps the pages turning! I happily finished it all in one day. The ending has the same magical quality as the rest of the story, although it loses a bit of the punch that earlier plot twists had. If it were a tiny bit tighter with a little more pizzaz, it would have been a fitting ending to the helter-skelter feel of the earlier plot.

4 out of 5 stars just because I’m not gonna run out and buy it. But I might, if “the right sort” of child comes along. 😉

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