The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2)Featured
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 both foreign realms and 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 the trail of long-forgotten--and forbidden--clues from the deep, undiscovered catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who--despite everything--she is falling in love with.
If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
Everyone should read this series.
I love that every character is three-dimensional and nuanced. I love that I can see the story happening against a beautifully described backdrop. And I really love that the character arc for Elisa is once again full of subtle shifts, flaws, and moments of brilliance. Reading this book is like revisiting an old friend and finding her full of fascinating new stories.
The plot is layered and complex enough to keep the reader completely engaged. The relationships are complicated and compelling. And the struggle between faith and discovering your own strength is portrayed with balance.
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.
O.M.G!!!!!! What the hell, talk about torture!!!!!! So much happened! I don't know where to begin! Seriously, Rae Carson has created an excellent series!!! Can't wait for the third book! :D
*fan girl inside is still screaming her head off!*
Stage 1: *shifty eyes* This is too good to be true, right? Best first chapter of a novel ever! Elisa, why are you so cool?
Stage 2: Ah, this is AWESOME! Elisa be my friend. OMG, politics! I love books about court politics. HECTOR! Politics, politics, politics, assassination attempts. I LOVE THIS BOOK, right?
Stage 3: Unresolved Sexual Tension. Do it. Kiss already, dammit! Holy cow why is this so brilliant?!
Stage 4: Ope, I knew it. Carson, you let me down. Boo!
Stage 5: HECTOR!!! And dayum, Elisa you are sexy when you’re bossy. Get it, gurl.
Stage 6: …oh. It’s over? But but but…no! What about Hector?!
Right. So as you can see, for the majority of this book I was riding on an intense high of “this is so awesome!” which is always fun. I definitely need to find more books that make me feel like that. But, sadly, just because I liked The Crown of Embers better than its prequel didn’t mean it was perfect. And this book wasn’t perfect for me, as evidenced by Stage 4 of my reading experience. And, since I’m getting the bad out of the way first to focus on the overwhelming awesome, we’ll discuss Stage 4 now.
So, my big problem with The Girl of Fire and Thorns was the religious aspect. Because, essentially, Rae Carson borrowed wholesale from Judeo-Christian ideology and plopped it down in her supposed “fantasy” world. Now doesn’t it seem to you that if you were going to write a fantasy novel you’d, you know, want to have fantasy elements in it? It seems inexcusably lazy to just steal Christian concepts and scripture. Lazy, I say. I was really relieved, then, when the first half of The Crown of Embers revealed no copying of the Bible. Really, it’s not the themes and messages I object to so much as the blatant plagiarism of passages from the Bible. Because that’s beyond lazy. And guess what? After the halfway mark, The Crown of Embers straight-up plagiarized multiple verses from the Bible. To give you an idea, Carson stole from the book of Ruth, Psalms, the Gospels, and some other New and Old Testament books that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Full, nearly verbatim phrases. Straight from the Bible. Not even kidding.
Stealing words from another source—no matter what that source is, then inserting those exact same words into your book and passing them off as your own. Is that not the very definition of plagiarism? It is, yes? There is no justification for plagiarism. It’s inexcusable and I will forever hold a grudge against Rae Carson for being A PLAGIARIST.
But, as frustrated as that whole lazy world-building, cheap trick mythology makes me, The Crown of Embers is still an extremely good book, though I must say the last 100 pages or so felt a bit…off. But anyway.
This book starts with a flourish. Elisa is running around town doing queenly things when BAM, assassination attempt. And then in the first 10 chapters, there are 2 more assassination attempts and other bad things. Obviously, this girl has problems, and the biggest one is how much she’s attracted to her hunky Commander of the Royal Guard, Lord Hector. Hector, by the way, wins all the awards for genuine, swoonable YA love interest. He just wins.
The first half of The Crown of Embers deals mostly with court politics and scheming lords, etc. And that, honestly, is my favorite type of plot technique in any given fantasy novel. It makes me giddy and makes me think about people and I love it when there are poisonings and stabbings and midnight trysts. Yes I do. The second half of the novel deals with Elisa sneaking south to go on a quest so that she can commune with God more closely—and that’s where the excessive Bible-quoting comes in. That aspect, honestly, was just as well done as the court politics section, but I got tired of it a bit more quickly. Quests and adventurous journeys aren’t as interesting to me, personally. And the ridiculous amount of unresolved sexual tension between Elisa and Hector was driving me batty. Batty in a good way, obviously.
I will now take this opportunity to explain why Elisa is a fantastic female protagonist. #1: she’s not beautiful but she doesn’t spend all her time complaining about how ugly she is. #2: she’s smart and brave and proactive. #3: her sense of humor is self-depreciating but not in a depressing, shoot-me-now kind of way. #4: THIS SCENE—
I clench my hands into fists and yell, “Hector!”
He whips around.
“You were never, never, going to be just a diversion to me.”
He sighs, nodding. “That was unfair of me,” he says. “I’m sorry—”
“And you will kiss me again. That and more. Count on it” (pg. 359).
Yep. Bossy Elisa is sexy. And gets a big round of applause from yours truly. Winning.
So, in the end, all I have to say is this: The Crown of Embers is pretty darn good. Except for the Biblical plagiarism. But I suspect that Carson got away with that since the majority of her readers won’t be able to point fingers at aforementioned plagiarism, not being familiar enough with the Bible. That puts me in the minority. So if you liked The Girl of Fire and Thorns and enjoy passionate protagonists and action-intensive plotlines, read this book. It has that and more.
It would be a mistake to call the novel a romance in the sense that there's a great deal more going on than passionate glances and fervent kisses and the like. Elisa has inherited a kingdom ravaged by war, desperately poor, and politically unstable. She is raising a young prince, entertaining suitors, and uncovering the truth behind obscure prophecies that seem to center directly around her. There are daggers and arrows, assassins and desert caravans, and ships traversing stormy seas. And let's not forget magic. In short, this book is epic.
But it is true that the most powerful story you're left with at the closing of the final page is the heady passion between Elisa and the man she loves, as their friendship matures each step of the journey. Second books often suffer from lack of narrative, serving as a bridge from the opening story in book one to its conclusion in book three. It's the love story that keeps The Crown of Embers together, unifying each disparate plot twist with one steadily growing theme.
Beyond that, Elisa herself is a character you want to stay with through anything and everything. She's a flawed character, but so very strong. Her strength is in her intelligence and her courage. But she is not afraid to rely on those she trusts. She's a good example of love allowing you to be vulnerable without making you weak. Nothing about this series is moralizing, but I cannot help but feel like a reader could learn a great deal from these characters about wisdom, courage, and power - the very things Elisa asks for in the sacrament of pain, the lessons she herself takes from her own experiences.
You must know before you begin that the series does not end here. Much more than with the first book, The Crown of Embers concludes with a serious cliffhanger. You'll be aching for book three. So much happens between Elisa's marriage to Alejandro in the opening pages of The Girl of Fire and Thorns and the final scene of The Crown of Embers, that you'll probably have to reread them both before the next release. So carve out the time now, and gather yourself a book club. The Bitter Kingdom is coming in the fall of 2013.
You know how sequels can be kinda scary, because if the first book was amazing, you worry that the second one might not measure up? Oh my god. I should have known that Rae Carson would blow my fears right out of the water. That screaming I was doing? It was tempered with grinning, because I loved this effing book, people!
Elisa encounters one disaster after another, and each one tests her further. Her grip of power over her kingdom is weakening, and it seems like the world is crumbling beneath her sometimes. She is surrounded by people who hold her up, people who want to tear her down, people who adore her, people who are out to kill her, and people she can’t seem to face for one reason or another. But that GIRL, she SURVIVES! And the Godstone helps her through. Never have I admired a deity the way I do the God in Elisa’s world. The power that thrums through her Godstone, guiding her, helping her, and healing her.
In The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa grew into herself as a person. In The Crown of Embers, Elisa grows into a woman and into a real queen. I truly admire the amount of introspection and personal growth that surrounds the main character in this series. It feels so especially refreshing, so satisfying, so right. Rae Carson is an artful storyteller, and the way each and every piece and person is weaved through Elisa’s journey is incredible. I was a captive audience right up until the very end.
I think this is the first time I’ve rated a sequel higher than its predecessor. But, damn, this book was amazing. I can’t believe I have to wait so long for — *gulp* — The Bitter Kingdom. (How ominous does that sound? I’m squirming!)
[NOTE: I read this book as an ARC, borrowed from my sister, who receives many, many awesome things in her mailbox.]