Kristin Cashore returns to her Graceling Realm series with a wonderful installment rife with political intrigue and tantalizing romance. When Queen Bitterblue of Monsea learns that two of her emissaries have died under suspicious circumstances, she's heartbroken. Merchants from Winterkeep have been stealing Monsea's zilfium--a powerful fuel--and it appears they've murdered her men to keep their secret. Bitterblue sails to the Winterkeep capital. As her ship approaches, she's swept overboard, "rescued" and then immediately imprisoned by persons unknown. Lovisa Cavenda, the daughter of two politicians in Winterkeep, is perfectly situated to dig into the mysteries: Where is the zilfium going? And who has Bitterblue?

Cashore's novel features two strong but different female protagonists. Bitterblue jumps into danger headfirst, while Lovisa is slower to challenge her demons. But confront them she does, in this gripping tale of spies, romantic tension and moral dilemmas. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

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