I'm not going to claim this has any pretenses to literature, but I can't remember the last time I was so engrossed in a work of fiction. For the hours I read this, I just disappeared into the book. I loved the first book, Graceling to which this is a sequel. I'd recommend reading Fire, too, which also ties into this book first. Queen Bitterblue is the daughter of King Leck, a monstrous man (in more than one sense). He was killed almost nine years ago, when she was a child, but the legacy of his thirty-five year rule lingers on. This is definitely high fantasy about an imaginary pseudo-European Medieval world, and there's an element of romance, but above all I'd say this reads most like a mystery. Early on Bitterblue makes a list of puzzles she needs to solve if she's going to heal her kingdom, and in the process of finding solutions Cashore weaves a tale about memory, truth-seeking, and how trying to bury a painful past can prolong the agony and the damage. I loved the characters--it was nice seeing Po and Katsa again of Graceling, although Katsa really is almost a cameo, and Po a relatively minor character. But it says a lot about Bitterblue, that I didn't spend the novel missing them--her and the characters surrounding her were more than enough to hang a tale I found intriguing, engrossing and at times moving.