by Rae Carson
To be published on August 27, 2013
by Greenwillow Books
Source: e-ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.
Connect with the author: website | Twitter | Facebook.
Summary from Goodreads: Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save him, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion -- a champion to those who have hated her most.
My spoiler-free take: As someone who's just started reading and appreciating YA fantasy, I've enjoyed this trilogy so much. I think that Crown of Embers is still my favorite book in the trilogy, but I also thought that The Bitter Kindgom was a fitting end to Elisa's story, with plenty of romance, heartbreak, suspense and sacrifice. As was the case when I started book two, Crown of Embers, it took me a few chapters to get myself oriented and immersed back into the story world. I could have used a little more recap. There was a lot of travel and action in this book -- plotting and hiding and fight scenes and a whole underground sequence that reminded me a lot of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I didn't feel that Elisa grew as much as a character in this book. On the one hand, I was happy that she's grown so confident, but her lack of confidence in prior books made her more relatable. I also enjoyed the addition of the new POV :)
In order to keep this completely spoiler-free, I'll list the things I love most about the entire trilogy:
The story world
In the world of the books, there are interwoven levels of struggle. The deepest and oldest of these is over magic, a force beneath the earth's surface called zafira. As a Chosen One, Elisa is able to tap into this power through her godstone, a gem in her belly button. There's political intrigue, with rival kingdoms and monarchs and plenty of plotting and scheming, and cultural clashes. Elisa's kingdom is threatened the Inviernos -- an army led by sorcerers. All of these aspects felt very well thought-out and integrated into the story.
Elisa's character development
I love the fact that this trilogy is also the story of one young woman's growth as a person, a woman and a ruler. Over the three books, Elisa grows from a sheltered and spoiled royal to a shell-shocked queen facing loss and betrayal to a determined and focused leader. All the things that have happened to her in the first two books test her faith and her self-confidence, making her a stronger, wiser, and more compassionate person. As I said above, I think there's less character development in The Bitter Kingdom than in the other two books, but Elisa still comes a long way from book one.
The action and adventure
I'm not a reader who needs fight scenes and stuff. But take characters I care about and put them in dangerous situations, and I'm turning the pages like crazy. Elisa spends most of The Bitter Kingdom on the road and away from her palace. She's traveling with a very small party of people loyal to her -- an assassin, a lady in waiting and a failed sorcerer -- and they're trying to rescue someone very important to Elisa.
I loved that the romance in these books was not the typical YA love at first sight or love triangle. Elisa experiences all different kinds of relationships, from an arranged marriage to being a stepmother to to a girlish crush to… yes, the kind of love that might just last a lifetime.
If you are a fantasy reader, a fan of YA writers like Kristen Cashore and Melina Marchetta, you should definitely not miss these books. But if, like me, you are not a huge fantasy reader, I still think you'll find lots to love in these books. There's plenty of action, romance, and intrigue, but the books also raise interesting questions about faith, identity and justice.
Well you already know that I loved this one but I don't think I fully appreciated the romantic plot lines across the series until after writing my review. I love the different relationships shown here-so many YA stories have girl meets guy and that's it (or else the dreaded love triangle) but this trilogy's are so much more complicated and yet still satisfying.ReplyDelete
I think that was one of my favorite parts of the trilogy. You and I disagreed a bit -- I liked the second book best -- the third had one of those quest plots that isn't my favorite, and probably explains why I don't read tons of fantasy….Delete
Yay for good character development and an atypical romance!ReplyDelete
I'm still writing my review so I'm coming back to check this one out then:) But WOO HOO for this series as a whole--so wonderful--I loved the way it wrapped up:) I cannot wait for Rae Carson's next "western- themed" project!:)ReplyDelete
I'm sure your review will be inspired!Delete
Western-themed, like cowboys?? That's really different. I'm excited!
Not really a fantasy fan, but it does sound intriguing.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the review!
I'm not either, but I did find lots to enjoy in these books!Delete
So jealous you got an advanced copy! ;) I'll be waiting for the library on this one. I'm glad you felt it was a good ending. I'm really curious to find out how things turn out with Elisa traveling to the other country. Thanks for the review!ReplyDelete
Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings
Can't wait to see what you think!Delete
Not much of a fantasy reader but I have also been slowly getting into more and more fantasy. I have the first book in this series and have heard lots of great things about it. Elisa's character and the world building sound great. Curious about the romance since you say she goes through so many different relationships. I thought there was just one guy but maybe I'm thinking of a different series.ReplyDelete
Read the second book!!!!Delete
I'm very very very impatient. I can't wait to read this book after falling in love with the first and second one. I really like Elisa and the word-building. I'm happy that you liked it :)ReplyDelete
I'm sure you'll love it!Delete
I really need to start this series. I've been into fantasy a lot more lately. And I like hearing the romance is not your typical YA romance. :)ReplyDelete
I love this series sooooo much! I didn't want it to end. Thanks for the awesome review.ReplyDelete
I'm never quite clear on spoiler-free reviews. Am I allowed to talk of things I'd read in other reviews? I mean, I know I probably I shouldn't have read them since I still haven't read Crown of Embers yet o.O, but temptation and curiosity come knocking every once in a while and... oh well, I'll ask: did you get a lot of colonialist impressions from this one? You mention the magic as being one of your favorite parts of the series - does that mean it's explored more in Crown of Embers? If Elisa's a lot more self-confident in this one, does that mean her weight issues have essentially vanished?ReplyDelete
I like the sound of the action sequences and the traveling situation as well as Elisa growing in all aspects of life. And of course, the romance, which when I do read CoE, I am very much looking forward to seeing explored...
Also: only recently got into YA Fantasy? Whaaat? Jen!
Yeah, why not?Delete
I loved your review and I didn't think of the colonialist aspect until I read your review. I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on the second book!
I LOVE fantasy and I love this series! I should be getting my own copy any time and I cannot wait to read it! I'm so glad you enjoyed this!ReplyDelete
I'm a huge fan of fantasy and I know that this series is just for me. I just need to find sometime to read it. I'm so happy you enjoyed and I hope you'll get to read more fantasy novels in future. Great review :)ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you loved this book! I totally did too! (Though I read all three books back to back, so I didn't really need a recap :) And I can totally relate- it was sooo hard to write a review and keep it spoiler free because I wanted to gush so much about its awesomeness! And I totally agree on the romance. So unbelievably unique! There should be more romance like that in YA. Though really, ever since book one, I knew there was gonna be something special about Hector. ;)ReplyDelete
The romance sounds fantastic and I have been keeping an eye on this series for a while- going to read the first one soon now!ReplyDelete
Fab review, Jen! <33
Gah, I still need to write my review. I have a feeling it's going to be a novel in itself. :P Love that even though you're not the biggest fantasy reader, you still really enjoyed this series. But it IS awesome. :DReplyDelete
I love fantasy and this series is definitely on my list of books to read soon!ReplyDelete
I love this series so much! I'm also really glad that I read all of it this year, so I didn't have to struggle as much to get back into a story. It's a small thing, but I agree that it can definitely affect my reading of a book. But I agree, Elisa's character growth throughout is one of my favorite aspects of this book, but what is great is that I liked her all the way through this series, even in the very beginning I found her relatable. The romance was unique and amazingly well done too. Oh Hector. *swoon* And yes, lots of fun action and traveling. I really loved exploring this world with Elisa and friends. Great review. I hope lots of people start reading these. This series deserves it!ReplyDelete