Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore will be out in a couple of weeks, so I want to take a moment to mention two things I think you’ll like in it. Don’t worry: no spoilers here. Full disclosure (and no surprise unless you're new to my blog), Kristin and I are friends; also, I was an early reader of Bitterblue; so hear this post in a fond friend voice rather than a pro critic voice. That said, here are two things I love about Bitterblue.
1) Bitterblue contains myriad types of love and values them all. Not just family/friend/romantic&sexual, which are standard categories, but nuanced kinds within each of those. The book gives respect and value to many, many kinds of love. All these kinds of love hold a tender, realistic, and often desperate place within the complex and dark fabric of this book. Love doesn't outweigh everything else here, not by a long shot; this book is hard on the heart, hard as hell on the heart, I'm not gonna lie. But in some other way, in an unusual way, love -- all the nuanced kinds, woven together -- is one of the bedrocks, here, of why life matters and how to get through it.
2) Here be queerness. The queerness isn't the lead (primary) sexuality here, but neither is it limited to a single character or a single couple. Queerness here doesn't depend on homophobia for its definition; homophobia does exist in this world, but the book doesn't make homophobia the main way that queerness comes to matter (which many YA books with queerness do). Queerness, here, is simply something that exists, a perfectly fine and normal way to be. A regular part of humanity. The queerness here doesn't have symbolism, it doesn't have a point, it just is. In this way, although hetness is still the majority in this world, Bitterblue undermines and grows beyond the standard heteronormativity we see so often in fantasy.