Ohhhh I suspected Bitterblue would be my favourite because the setting (inexperienced ruler trying to fix a broken kingdom) is a trope I enjoy greatly and also because I was dying to know how Bitterblue was doing post-Graceling. It still surprised me, though, with the sheer emotional baggage, including the painful - but necessary in Monsea's context - examination of the circle of abuse, the themes of wrongdoing versus guilt, and the different ways of coping with Leck's legacy.I love a good political intrigue but it's emotions and interpersonal relationships that seem to be Cashore's true strength. Not in the way some authors use them, by employing shock tactics in their narrative to force an emotional response, but by the simple admission that all choices and all actions have consequences that should be examined closely instead of being taken at face value. One example of this are Saf and Bitterblue: there is nothing simple about their situation and yet in 9 out of 10 books, I could tell you in advance how they were going to progress, step by step (and there wouldn't be a whole lot of steps), without ever facing the circumstances that make them who they are head-on. Another is Monsea itself - the scars do not heal just because the tyrant is no more, and ignoring them is not the same as moving on.Bitterblue also does a great job of tying the previous Seven Kingdoms novels together. Katsa and Po feature prominently in the story, and I should have expected it when the investigation into Leck's origins became a major theme, but Fire's appearance still came out of left field. I was actually hoping they could meet while reading Fire, because I felt they could find strength in their similarities, so I may have cheered a little. Cashore also continues her winning streak with strong - and varied - female characters on both sides of the intrigue, as well as the demystification of sexuality and introduction of queer themes (I want to know more about Bren and Tilda's baby plot and Raffin and Bann's future!). Such a satisfying end (is it?) to a refreshing series.