Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Crown of Embers
by Rae Carson
Read: March 19 - 24, 2013 (I took a break in the middle to read Clockwork Princess)
Published: September 18, 2012 by Greenwillow Books
Source: Library
Category: Fantasy, YA
Series: Fire and Thorns book 2

NOTE: Crown of Embers is the second book in a series. My thoughts contain some spoilers for book one. If you have not read Girl of Fire and Thorns, see my review HERE

In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy. (From Goodreads)


In the sequel to Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa learns that being queen comes with a price. Despite the fact that Elisa started the Malficio and almost singlehandedly destroyed the Invierne army invasion in Girl of Fire and Thorns, she is constantly questioned and undermined as queen. Her sovereignty feels less and less secure every day. Even worse, Elisa is young, female, an outsider and not married. It seems that everyone has an opinion about what she should do and how she should rule, and many just want to control her (or see her gone).

Top five reasons that it's not easy being queen. 
  1. Elisa sacrifices her personal safety. As a queen and godstone bearer she is even more vulnerable. Multiple attempts are made on her life, and her personal guard is in a constant state of vigilance and stress. 
  2. Elisa sacrifices her personal desires for the public good. She is being pressured to make an advantageous marriage match, in which love is not at all a factor. She is constantly watched, and cannot interact with her subjects, walk down the hallway or pray alone without the threat of attack. 
  3. Elisa's decisions affect the welfare of her people (lots of pressure!). As queen, Elisa is fully responsible for the health of her nation, and every decision she makes comes with consequences, often in the form of the safety of others. She quickly realizes the heavy burden of sacrificing one for the good of all. 
  4. Elisa has to work with people she doesn't like or trust. Being a sovereign means being a diplomat and constantly playing the game of politics. She has to work with traitors, and sometimes even the enemy, and must always stay one step ahead of the people she doesn't trust. If she lets her guard down or guesses wrong, it could mean death to her or another innocent person. 
  5. Elisa learns that it is lonely at the top. Everyone wants Elisa for something. They flatter her because of what they can offer her. But what Elisa really wants to surround herself with people (or a good man) who care for her. She's constantly having to question people's motives. And the man part at least feels like an impossible dream.
But being queen isn't all bad. Elisa gets to take another exciting journey through her country that again teaches her how capable she is. This time, instead of heading into the desert to face camels and sand, she goes towards the coast and encounters ships and islands and the sea. Elisa also discovers that she does have people she can trust around her. I continue to love all the secondary characters in this series. Some have been with Elisa all along and some are new faces, but in this book she'll learn that traitors can be allies, and allies don't always have her best intentions in mind. She also discovers that there are people in her life that she can put her faith in, and that she should not disregard wise council. 

Where I would describe the love story in Girl of Fire and Thorns as new and sweet, in Crown of Embers the tension is kicked up and the romance smolders. It sneaks up on Elisa throughout this book, but it also felt more mature and lasting. Elisa learns a lot about love and herself, especially the give and take required for a relationship. Although an equal relationship is complicated by the fact that Elisa is queen and sole sovereign, the moments that I thought had the highest swoon factor in this book, were when she and he were working together. They were wiser and stronger (and hotter) as a team. Although Elisa is a formidable force on her own, life is better and we are often more balanced when we have someone to share it with. I hope she gets a chance to experience that for herself. 

As Elisa struggles to maintain her rule and continue to follow God's path for her life as a queen and godstone bearer, she must learn the difference between having power and being a good leader. She also learns about trust, love and forgiveness; when to hold on tight, and when it's time to let someone go. The end of Crown of Embers made me both very happy and very worried, but most of all I am excited to see what Elisa accomplishes in The Bitter Kingdom. She remains my favorite part of this series, and I continue to be amazed by her growth and strength. Thankfully there are only a few months to go until the final book releases. 

Cliffhanger Scale: Medium
Love Triangle Factor: None


  1. Ok, so I skimmed this because you mentioned spoilers, but I did add book #1 to my to-read list and I plan on buying it in America! Thanks for reviewing this series and making me want to read it :)

    1. Is this not available in AU? I hope you do end up loving these books.

  2. I KNEW you were going to love this series, L! There are so many great aspects to this story. Like you mentioned in your review, I love that as readers we are given the opportunity to witness real growth in the character of Elisa. I love that the political intrigue is just right, not too heady or too over developed (that's a problem I often have with court politic storylines.) And like you, I love the secondaries, especially a certain foreigner:)

    But the romance! WOW. Rae Carson can really write some great romance, can't she? It is, without a doubt, my favorite part of this book, and probably what makes me enjoy it slightly more than The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Imagine that:)

    I am SO excited for The Bitter Kingdom because I think there are going to be so many awesome girl power moments!! Just a few more months to go!

    Awesome review!

    1. I love having a friend who knows exactly what kind of books I like to read! You haven't steered me wrong yet. I hope there's going to be even MORE swoon in book 3. BRING IT ON. Hopefully one of us can get our hands on an arc of book 3. You're right, Elisa is just getting even more awesome and powerful. I cannot wait to see what she accomplishes next. Her growth is definitely my favorite part.

  3. I love this series. It *might* just be my favorite YA fantasy series. I am itching to get to The Bitter Kingdom, especially after the ending in this book, but I'm trying to avoid temptation. It is so hard. :) Elisa makes such a great heroine, and Hector...sigh. You're right, the romance in book one was sweet, but this time around it was steamy and intense. And it's what Elisa deserves after everything she's sacrificed. But I know Rae Carson likes to give the axe to anyone I develop an attachment to, so I'm more than a little worried. :P

    1. Wow, those are big words Jen. But I agree, this series truly is amazing. I love Elisa's growth so much and how she changes from the beginning of book 1 through book 3. When you say you're "trying to avoid temptation" does that mean that you have an arc of The Bitter Kingdom? Lucky you! I am also worried about what is to come. But I'm hopeful too.

  4. I'm also a huge fan of this series :)

    Loved the relationship in this one. I was so shocked by the resolution of the romance in book one and I agree with Jen: after that, who knows? And then there's the complication of Elisa's sister.

    You can find me here: Jen @ YA Romantics

    1. Yikes! you're right. You never know what Carson is going to do. But looking back I can see where Humberto probably would not have worked out long term where Elisa was headed, but Hector makes much more sense.

      Also, great point about Elisa's sister. Although we haven't seen her since the beginning of book 1, she always feels like a presence in the series. I can't tell if it's just as a counter to Elisa, or if she's going to play a bigger role. Elisa sees her as a rival/peer, but will be interesting what happens when Alodia, Elisa and Cosme meet in 3 months!

  5. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one so much, Lauren! I really do agree that the romance in this book felt so much more mature and long-lasting. In GoFaT, I was besotted with Humberto, but I grew to like the direction the romance went in, merely because so many authors make it seem like your first love is THE ONE, when that isn't the case at all. If it was, the divorce rate wouldn't be so high. I also think Carson struck such a brilliant balance between the romance and the character growth, intertwining them without appearing too forced. I can't WAIT for The Bitter Kingdom, which coincidentally releases on my birthday! :) Lovely review, Lauren! :D

  6. I need to read The Crown of Embers soon! I have my own brand new shiny copy just sitting on my bookshelf at home. I am glad to hear that you feel like Elisa's character growth continues to get better and better - it was one of my favorite aspects of The Girl of Fire and Thorns for sure.And I've heard great things about the romance! (I totally called her new romantic interest by the end of book 1.) Can't wait to read it for myself!

  7. The romance smolder's, perfect way to describe it! I LOVE this series so much!


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