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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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