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Book Review: Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

I clench my jaw. He won’t do as I ask because my input is valuable, or even because I am his queen. He’ll only agree to consult me because it will make me feel better?

The general turns to go. “Wait.”

He whirls, and it’s possible I imagine his flitting look of impatience.

God, what do I say to this man? How can I convey that I am the sovereign and he is not? That even though I come from a foreign land, these are my people?

The Godstone leaps in response to my prayer, and an answer floats to me gently on the afternoon breeze.

Sorrow comes easily to my voice when I say, “I lost so may people I loved in the war with Invierne. We all did. But the only reason we survive to mourn is because our army fought bravely and selflessly. And no one fought harder than my own Royal Guard, who held off the invaders at tremendous cost so I could have time to work the Godstone’s magic.” I hope he hears what I’m not saying: Yes, General, we won the day because of me, remember? “I’ll not see them doubted or disrespected. In fact, I’ll defend each on of them with my dying breath if I must, as they defended me. Am I clear?”

In the second of the Fire and Thorn series by Rae Carson (for a review of the first, go here), readers find Elisa now queen of Joya d’Arena, a war hero to be celebrated after defeating the Inverne. Yet the danger is far from over, as Elisa finds sorcerers throughout the kingdom as well as traitors within her mists who feel the kingdom would be better served by a true noble of the realm, and not a jumped up girl. Battling politics as much as invaders, kidnappings and assassination attempts, Elisa decides to follow her birthright and destiny as it holds the key to everything: the power of her Godstone, what the sorcerers of the Inverne want, and even the soul of the world and the magic within. Yet the dangers along the way may be too much for Elisa to bear.

Elisa’s struggles of trying to fit in definitely reflect the struggles of any teen, and Carson doesn’t lose what made Elisa so real in the first place- that she is imperfect, struggling with the fact that she’s not classically beautiful, that she’s always questioning what’s right and wrong, and how to win things without causing irrefutable harm. Elisa continues to grow throughout the book, and it’s wonderful to see her growing into herself and into her powers, as a woman, a Godstone bearer, and a queen.  The supporting cast are fleshed out with their own set of quirks, and add a real backdrop and depth to the story, adding to the world of Joya d’Arena and beyond. Definitely give to readers of Tamera Pierce, Kirsten Cashore, and other lovers of fantasy adventure. 4 out of 5 stars.

Spoiler Space

I am in love with Elisa- she is a real person, with real problems and issues, and deals with them in logical ways. Carson could have magically made her beautiful in the end of the Crown of Fire and Thorns, but she didn’t- Elisa still struggles with her weight and the fact that she’s not the ideal person. The fact that no one will take her seriously in her own court, even though she defeated the sorcerer in the CASTLE is something that would happen because A. she’s foreign, B. she’s 17, and oh yea, C. she’s a GIRL. The fact that Hector and the guard is backing her gives her more muscle that she would have otherwise, and she uses them wisely.

And I adore Hector. He seems to be more than the first crush that she had in the first book, and I can really, secretly hope that in the third one there are rainbows and butterflies and soaring music with kisses.

Especially in light of the culture we live in, I like that Elisa’s first thoughts aren’t for violence.  Now, she has a very devious mind and can get as vicious as she needs to be, which is very much needed at times.  However, it doesn’t seem to be her first way of thinking, which is very nice and needed sometimes. It seems like more and more we’re being forced to think about attack and violence first, when we need to think about other avenues.

There were some very good twists and turns and death to a major character that I didn’t see coming, which I always love in a book.  Rae is going to be one of my stalking authors at conventions (sorry Rae), and will have to get pictures with the Pirate and Ninja Monkey for my teens.  I’m extremely looking forward to The Bitter Kingdom, which comes out in 2013, and need to track down the short story that goes along with this series that is floating around in electronic format.

Reviewed by Christie G, who likes to make authors take pictures with her monkeys


  1. This is one of my favorite series for the very reason you stated above — Elisa is REAL. I reviewed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and I *totally* author stalked Rae at NCTE this year! She is super nice!

  2. Yeeeeessssss, a million times YEEEEESSSSSS to this review and all your thoughts about the characters (Elisa, Hector, funny northerners with their ridiculous names, heheheh). We adore Rae's writing and the choices she makes, which, as you said, really make these people human and thus bring their stories to life for us.

  3. I am loving this series, and can't wait for the 3rd to see how it ends! Karen was sweet enough to get the first book signed for me, and if Rae is ever at any conference I'm at, the other two are getting signed for my bookcase! I'm glad others out there agree!


  4. I could just rave on and on about this book. It's incredible. It deserves a spot on my favorites shelf and will be a book that I will re-read many times. If you haven't tried this series, please do. It's a gem.

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