Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Crown of Embers - Rae Carson

[Note: This is the second book in the Fire and Thorns series, so there may be spoilers for the events of the first book. Feel free to check out my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns (book 1) instead!]

The Crown of Embers Rae Carson
The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #2
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Hardcover

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost. (from Goodreads)

There’s so much I want to say about The Crown of Embers. Each time I’ve started this review, however, I can’t seem to summon the appropriate words for how it made me feel. Because it did, that is, it made me feel. I was impressed by its predecessor, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but The Crown of Embers took my positive response to book one, and fanned the flames until it burst into full-on, borderline obsessive fandom. 

Clearly, The Crown of Embers is a remarkable book.

What I love most is that it legitimately feels like it is not simply a second book in a trilogy. It does accomplish many things that seconds normally do – developing characters further (especially through their relationships with other characters), carrying along the main plot arc of the entire trilogy and leaving us at a point where the next book will (supposedly) answer all the questions and the characters will face an epic showdown. But it also has the strength to stand separately from its companions, with a contained plot of its own.

The Crown of Embers returns readers to the world of Joya de Arena, once again rejoining Elisa as she embarks on the next chapter of her story. The events of The Girl of Fire and Thorns were certainly a traumatic, yet transformative experience for her: being married to a stranger and moving to a foreign kingdom, getting kidnapped, leading a group of rebels, betrayals, romance, learning about the Godstone and death too. What The Crown of Embers does is two-fold: it shows how Elisa deals with all that’s happened to her so far, as well as showing how she uses what she’s learned to navigate the murkiness of the challenges that face her at present. 

It’s no doubt that this story will appeal to fantasy fans. The Crown of Embers features political intrigue and deception, and a voyage into uncharted territory, among other things, which lends to the sense of epic adventure the novel offers. So much happens! I loved it, and my fascination kept me turning the pages.

Elisa began to come into her own in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but it is in The Crown of Embers where she finds her way as the ruler of Joya de Arena. Like anyone in her position, Elisa faces danger, doubt and anxiety over the major choices and tasks she is forced to make. But her quiet strength, glimmers of growing wisdom and independent, forward thinking make her ideal to step into place as a queen. She becomes such an admirable figurehead, both among her subjects and among her friends (and even for us readers). 

Other familiar characters return as well, chief among them Mara (Elisa’s lady-in-waiting, who’s also one of her best friends and a warrior in her own right) and Hector (who deserves an entire paragraph of his own, still to come). There are also a few newcomers, my favorites among them being Storm and Felix. Rae Carson manages to make each character in this ensemble come alive completely, making them so distinct that it’s hard to confuse or forget them once you encounter them. It’s a rare thing to be able to do so effectively, but Carson certainly showed off her chops yet again in The Crown of Embers.

Hector, as promised, warrants a paragraph of praise. He’s been present in Elisa’s life since The Girl of Fire and Thorns, though he has recently become Captain of the Queen’s Guard after Alejandro’s passing. It’s clear that he is well-versed in weapons, strategy and protection. But what becomes entirely too evident in The Crown of Embers is that he is also a man with some vulnerability when it comes to his regard for Elisa. He’s one of her best friends and closest advisers, but it’s plain as day that he’s also got romantic feelings. There are a lot of swoony moments to be had between these two in The Crown of Embers, but nearly all of them build up this extremely slow-burn, cautious romantic relationship.

Clearly, I harbor a lot of affection for The Crown of Embers. It’s not only a phenomenal second book, but it’s also a solid story on its own. I was sincerely blown away by how intense my emotions were while reading, and cannot gush enough about The Crown of Embers. The only piece of advice I’d offer apart from JUST READ IT ALREADY? You should be sure to have the last book, The Bitter Kingdom, on hand, so you can jump in when you’re done with this one!

3 comments:

  1. Beautiful gushing. I need more books written by Rae Carson.

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  2. Hehe, I'm reading this at the moment and am thoroughly enjoying being back in this world. I just need to find the time to continue reading! I love how Hector has progressed from being kind of there to being Elisa's guard. I love him, although I haven't reached many swoony moments yet. There have been a couple already though. I'm always here for slowburn! I do have the third book at hand, so I should be able to read it as soon as I am done with this one :D

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  3. I want to read this again now!!!!! Seriously, this is my favorite of the series. I loved how it was a second book but didn't feel like a second book. It took this series up a notch and and to a place that became very special to me. Glad you enjoyed it and looking forward to reading your review of The Bitter Kingdom!

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