Updated 7/05/12Sorry in advance for the long review. The concise version: Intriguing idea, but execution less than stellar.The thing about this book is that I've been mulling it over in my mind, and the more I think about it the less I believe it deserved a two star rating.These are the reasons why. No authentic fantasy feel to the storyThis is one of the only books that I have read in the fantasy genre that doesn't read like a fantasy book. It's like the writer thought "oh I'll write a fantasy book," yet I feel like she's never read a single fantasy book before she wrote this story. What I mean is there was no fantasy pull. It's wannabee fantasy and I don't get the sense of wonderment that I get when I read fantasy. If you don't like fantasy and think this is great fantasy, read some real fantasy like Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, C.S Lewis, Brandon Sanderson. Even urban fantasies like Jim Butcher, Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, and all them who write fantastically created worlds (even if they are set in the modern day). ThemesIt seems to me that the author is trying way to hard to push her own opinions on what a "strong woman" is. I read feminist literature and study it, but as a feminist thinker I will say she is going about this the wrong way. She should not be putting her own opinions about commitment, anti-marriage, and casual relationships so casually in her work. I get that Katsa has grown up believing she can only kill people, however there are ways one can write the same character in subtle ways than being adamant to the point there is no change in the character.NamesI don't think I am the only one who finds Katsa close to Katniss. Po. Prince Po? Seriously? What kind of name is that for a fantasy prince. Bitterblue, really? The author I read said she had a hard name with fantasy names, but guess there are naming books, websites, and even good old fashion language dictionaries. I mean names like Sparrowhawk, Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Aslan have weight to them. World BuildingI associate this part closely with my first reason why I didn't like this book. If the author has never read or gotten a feel for the fantasy genre, then she is hardly to blame for terrible world building. I don't think maps are the end all and be all of fantasy. They aren't. World building is how immersive the world is to the reader. Sure, she has some customs explained or how she described Prince Po's castle and the ride to it. It's not enough however to ask for how the graces came to be, in a lot of fantasy books there are legends as to how people got their powers. This is one of the reasons why as a fantasy book it is sub-par. KatsaI'm sick and tired of strong, female characters having no emotions! You can be strong and have emotions! Professor McGonagall she's a strong female character, smart and shows emotions as well. Eddi McCrandry is a spunky, tough chick who has feelings too. What I don't understand is I am all for the strong female character types, but please don't let them go as far as being jerks to themselves as well as people around them. It's completely unrealistic that even the strongest of people have their vulnerable moments. It's not that hard to create a well rounded female character. Jim Butcher and Brandon Sanderson do it! They're guys! The fact they can write characters like Molly Carpenter, Murphy, and Vin tells me it can be done. What I don't understand as a female writer she should be able to write female characters with more grace, but she comes up short. PoDoesn't even act like how a young boy/young man would act. He gives into Katsa's demands way too easily and he can use the force too? Well, not the force in this book it just reads that way. Maybe the author's never seen Star Wars since if she did she would make that connection. Feeling Katsa and what is around him, yep sounds like a Jedi to me. He doesn't whine, complain, and he lies close to the end of the book. Is that his only downside, no at the very end of the book comes his biggest downfall--except it feels like during the majority of the book he doesn't have any character development. I wanted to like him, but I couldn't. The best I got was Bitterblue. UnrealisticI gather this is fiction. I gather this is fantasy.However, it's no excuse for making an unbelievable characters, world building, and most of all themes of the book. This book is so uneven. The back of the book jacket on the hardcover is deceiving. It promises much, but is completely unrealistic given the content of the book. People think it's a layered read. It is, it's telling you that you can have friends with benefits when you're young, that guys will do whatever you tell them to do (which isn't true), and that girls to be strong don't show much vulnerability. You want to know what? Showing vulnerability is a strong characteristic. People can relate to it. People however cannot relate to characters that don't show a vulnerability every once in awhile.Length and PacingMs. Cashore's book is way to long considering what is inside it, and that approximately 50% of the book nothing happens. This book is billed as "action-packed," which leaves much to be desired since it's only around 15% of the book that has action in the first place. It's mostly sluggish, the character development stale. The best part is probably Katsa and Bitterblue crossing the mountain range because we start to see some real changes in the characters there. ConclusionI am always willing to give new authors a try and love reading fantasy books. This book promised so much, but in the end failed in every single way. The writing--a lot of people are praising it as beautifully written. Umm...not really. It's basic and confusing at times.However, if you want evocative imagery you might want to try Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus" that's evocative imagery or Toni Morrison's "Beloved" with the cherry tree scar. This isn't even close. For a writer who has a master's degree I'm shocked. It illustrates my belief that one does not need a masters in order to write and be published. One just needs to know how to tell a story well, which I hate to say it Ms. Cashore really can't do. The only upside was the cover of this book, it's quite pretty. It's a shame that people buy books just for their covers sometimes because I wouldn't waste 18 dollars for this book. Thank goodness I got it from the library for free. I want to say that I will give Ms. Cashore another go, but from what I can see from her debut it doesn't give me a lot of confidence.