Kristin Cashore's Bitterblue was one of the books I most anticipated for release this year. The previous two Seven Realms books -- Graceling and Fire -- were quickly added to my list of favorites, and I was certain that Bitterblue would be the same.Not quite.Bitterblue picks up eight years after the end of Graceline, and Bitterblue has been running the country with the aide of her late father's advisors. She realizes she is mostly a paper-pusher, and begins sneaking out of the castle to learn more about her kingdom. In the process, she finds places where people share stories of both her father's evil reign, as well as what happened with her friends Katsa and Po to help depose him. In her wanderings, she also meets Teddy and Saf, two men dedicated to the truth of her father's reign as well as making things right again. Bitterblue begins to sort through her memories as well as the history of the kingdom, trying to determine what the right way to rule is, as well as whether the decision to try to move on from her father's evil was the right one for the kingdom.Bitterblue's story is moving as well as meaningful; it forces the reader to answer questions about our own history: Can we truly move on until we have understood things that were done badly and tried to rectify them? Her story is a true coming-of-age story, and I think it will still appeal to fans of the previous two books.Where Bitterblue went awry, however, was in the romance department. Bitterblue's tale could have stood on its own, but it feels as if Cashore (or her editor) felt that a romance was necessary, as the previous two books also had one. Bitterblue's romance seems as if it was crammed in as an afterthought; it's neither crucial to the plot nor moves the story forward. The few scenes that involve the romance feel false and stilted, and I never connected with her romantic interest as a romantic interest. As a result, the book feels unfinished, like it needed that section smoothed out and blended better, or better yet, cut entirely. Bitterblue is a strong character, and she didn't need a man to get involved with her life as she was finding herself.