The title is from a Gertrude Stein Quote: "When you get there, there is no there, there." Books are my favorite form of escapism and the book that can keep me up late at night against reason and sense is a rare and beautiful thing. I like reading because it is a peek into someone's inner life and inner monologue. Whether books want to or not, they are teaching us something about the author's view of what it means to be a woman or person or be in love or be alive. The books that are popular are a commentary on what we value as a society.
I really enjoyed it. A LOT happened, which is a nice change from a book series that takes its time because the author knows there's going to be 3 more books following the same person and they need to leave some room for growth. It's not the case with this book- it's a full-on sprint the entire way through.
I also like that this is not a love story. The romance is a sub-plot. Center stage is this young-adult political intrigue. Well done, Kristin Cashore! At last a book about something other than "I love him/but we can't be together/I'll be moody for 300 pages."
That said, I agree with the perspective of other reviewers that there's some uncertainty in what the author is saying about feminism. You don't need to hate dresses and long hair and marriage to be a feminist. There is some danger in that of Female Chauvinist Pig-ism that idealizes all things man and puts down women who enjoy "girly" things. I don't think that this is what Kristin Cashore is doing, though. She's telling one girl's story, and in this story, she doesn't like all those things; all the girly things that are expected of her. Katsa is no less of a woman for wanting pants and short hair.
I'm conflicted with the ideas of marriage put forth in the book. In this medieval-ish time period, marriage was very much arranged, very much subjugating a woman to her husband. Though if we're going with the historical context, it should be noted that women didn't take lovers without significant social repercussions.
If Katsa's view on marriage is the author's, (which she is totally allowed to have & I don't disrespect her for it) it makes me sad that she sees being a wife likened to being a barnacle. I certainly hope my marriage is an equal partnership. And I would imagine that Po and Kat have a good equal partnership thing worked out. And personally (though again, the author can feel however she wishes to feel) I think there is a beauty in monogamy & commitment. While maybe it is selfish to want someone to commit only to me, I think commitment and fidelity are an integral part of any relationship and I don't think it would be wrong or make her any less of an individual to want that in her life.
While this is what I want, it's clearly not what Katsa wants. Her work comes first, her love life comes second. From that perspective, she really shouldn't get married unless she can commit. Good for her for knowing her priorities and not settling. Love does't mean marriage, and marriage doesn't mean love. It's refreshing to read a YA novel that doesn't end in settling down & starting a family. Katsa's got bigger goals, bigger dreams than just finding a man & having babies. She can find love and have love along the way, and I think that's a better message than these books that want female characters to be weak and at the beck and call of their male lovers.