Review by: Kaede
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
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.
There are certainly trilogies out there where the second book in the series loses some of the appeal the first one may have had. The Girl of Fire and Thorns series is not one of them.
While I really liked The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I loved The Crown of Embers even more. I had minor problems with both books, but the issues I had were for the most part overshadowed by enjoyment. There was a lot of action from the very beginning, mixed with vivid descriptions from a very strong writing style. And plus, I wasn't expecting to laugh so much in this book, but I did. There was one thing I couldn't get over however.
People make mistakes, and that's fine. In the moment, I might be trying to reach inside the book and slap you for making the stupid mistake, but after it's settled in, I can usually understand you. The pressures of being a ruler is presumably extremely difficult (because I, very unfortunately, have no first-hand experience :P), and to be a good queen you need to find that fine line of showing kindness but also knowing how to inspire respect in people. Certainly, respect can be gained because of the goodness of one's heart, but more so - respect is gained when one holds power that can cause fear.
In a way, I see why Elisa did what she did. If she had punished nobody, the same exact thing could have easily happened again. But it just seemed wrong that fully knowing the kitchen staff was innocent, she had them whipped to the point where only the kitchen master could remain standing. But then again, I could watch the main character kill countless people and never feel a thing, so who knows if my mind works the right way when it comes to books or manga.
Honestly though, I don't think it was the whipping itself that bothered me as much as how we saw Elisa deal with it. Right afterwards, she had a sense of remorse and I could see that she did feel bad, and I was on the way of sort of letting it go. But then it was never brought up again, and I didn't like that she didn't even try to express an apology to at least the kitchen master. A queen shouldn't be seen apologizing to anybody, least she seem weak, but if she had really felt bad enough, Elisa could have found some way to slip past people and spoken with the kitchen master. She's creative. She could have done it.
“Prophecy is a tricky thing, I have learned, full of edges and secret meanings and mischief. Prophecy can feel like the betrayal of a dear friends, the disappointment of a lifetime, the hope of a nation.”
At least though, Elisa didn't forget about Humberto and Alejandro. That once upon a time she did love both of them, or wanted their love. The conversation Elisa had with Belen about Humberto was sweet.
The Godstone plays a fairly big part in The Crown of Embers. Elisa is starting to discover what it means to be the Chosen One who is destined to achieve great things, or die trying. But before that, she needs to figure out how to carry the hope of a nation who is looking to her to defeat the enemy. Elisa finds people who could be strong allies and companions, such as familiar faces from her time as a desert rebel and Storm, who's full name I swear I had down at one point but now I have no clue. It was something along the lines of He Who Wafts Gently With The Wind Becomes as...Strong as the Thunderstorm. There is a lot of potential for Storm to become a great best friend character, and I firmly believe YA can never have enough of those.
The secondary characters we meet in this series have made the list of favorites because they are all so wonderful. I loved Belen, Mara, and Mara and Belen together of course (as I've said countless times, no book is complete for me without characters I can try to push together so they'll kiss), even though it's really not a thing. I also really liked Storm and meeting Hector's brother, because that was a ton of fun. Our meeting with Hector's brother also shows that Elisa can also hold her own in a bargain and getting what she wants.
And you better believe I'm damn pleased that she finally realized what she wanted was Hector.
“I love you the way a dying man loves air. And it would destroy me to have you just a little.”
Their relationship is the type you won't have problem believing. They start out as friends, become best friends, and then slowly, with time, they realize they want something more. I was waiting and waiting for that barrier of queen and Captain of the Royal Guard to be broken, but instead I get that ending. NO. STOP. NO. GO AWAY.
“That queen of yours played me like a vihuela, didn't she?”
I'm not always the fondest of Elisa, but I can definitely admit that she grows stronger with each thing that happens to her. Elisa doesn't always make the best decisions, but she has friends who can guide her in the right direction when she does. The ending of The Crown of Embers was a bit heartbreaking for me, but I loved how Elisa stayed strong through it. She didn't break and she didn't cry. Instead, she calmly calculated her move like a true queen. I think that she should have allowed more time for preparation, but her journey ahead will take a while and she has a time limit on her hands. I don't think Elisa should leave with her friends without some thought of how to make sure her country can stay together in her absence, because that's foolish. But she's certainly growing, and hopefully by the end of The Bitter Kingdom, I'll respect her even more than I do and love her completely, because she has the potential to be everything I want my heroines to be.
5 coffee cups!
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Let's Discuss: In the comments, tell me some of your favorite books where there is a strong friendship alongside a strong romance. Because I love those books so very much, and an example would be the Under the Never Sky trilogy with the fantastic friendship between Aria and Roar, and the swoon-worthy romance of Aria and Perry, whom I almost typed as Pretty... Well, I mean, I'm sure you areee pretty Perry. *hides*