In hindsight, I wish I had re-read Graceling and Fire before I read Bitterblue. It's been so long, and I have a terrible memory. I know the blurb on this book says you can like this book without reading the others, but I'm not sure that's true. I found the first half pretty boring and pretty much lacking in plot. I also found Bitterblue's character confusing. She's been queen for how long and doesn't know a SINGLE THING about her castle? I know she's been sheltered, and that explains her ignorance of the city, but it's like she'd been kept in a box until she turned 18, and they'd just let her out at the start of the book. The storyline in this book was unnecessarily chaotic. Don't get me wrong, I love complexity, but there were quite a few "straw men" in there that should have either received more attention or been left out entirely. I think the killer for me, though, was Bitterblue's relationship with Saf. I feel like there was nothing there except an adolescent crush, and no real compatibility (which, I might add, she seemed to have aplenty with Giddon - what a missed opportunity that is). I still enjoyed the second half of the book, even though in total I was disappointed. I waited so long for this book, which at one point looked like it might not even get written. I mean I applaud Cashore for struggling through her writer's block and getting it done, but you can tell it lacked the inspiration of Graceling and Fire.