I had high expectations of this book, having loved Graceling and Fire so much - and in many ways, Bitterblue didn't disappoint.
Once again we have a heroine who is completely different from both Katsa and Fire, the heroines of the previous books, and once again we learn more about the world of the Gracelings and the Dells and meet many interesting characters and tricky situations along the way. As a matter of fact, making sense of things is the main plot of the book - young queen Bitterblue has to try to make sense of her kingdom and its people in the aftermath of her father's terrible reign. This is no easy task, and luckily she has the support of both old friends like Katsa, Po and Giddon, as well as new ones, mainly young thief Saf, printer (and truthseeker) Teddy, as well as her curmudgeonly librarian Death (pronounced to rhyme with "Teeth").
Altogether, it was hard to put this down, as I wanted to find out what was going on in Bitterblue's kingdom almost as much as she did. However, in a way the mysteries upon puzzles upon betrayals made for a somewhat frustrating read, no doubt intended to mirror Bitterblue's own frustration, so it was somewhat less satisfying to read than the first two, also due to the horrificness of Leck's atrocities that doesn't lend itself to a neat happy ending.
Something I especially like about Cashore's writing is that she's obviously very aware of issues like sexuality, race, disability, showing humanity in its many varieties instead of traditional fantasy tropes. She even addresses the problems with Po's "miracle cure" in Graceling in the acknowledgements, an encouragement to writers that it's okay to try things, make mistakes and then learn from them.