tcoeThe Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

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.

Here we go again, back to Elisa! You can read my review for The Girl of Fire and Thorns here, but it has spoilers, so fair warning! This book starts off with two attempts on Elisa’s life, one by an animagus and another by an unknown assassin. Elisa’s advisers are untrustworthy to the point of being suspicious, and take advantage of her while she is incapacitated, using the time to abuse their power and help their own machinations along. I hated them all, regardless of if they thought they were doing the right thing for their country. I wanted Elisa to order them all hanged. They raise taxes without her consent, and they murder a guard for basically no reason. They’re awful. But it all keeps coming back to Hector, who you must know Elisa is beginning to love. He stands by her through everything, doesn’t leave her alone with her treacherous advisers, and just generally provides moral support. I think even I started falling in love with him.

This book is a little different from the last one, in that there is much less adventure. There’s still a lot of intrigue, though, and Elisa is almost killed more than once. I loved her even more in this one, maybe because she is so unsure of her position as queen but she is still kind, true to herself, brave, and unafraid. Her maid, Mara, is a welcome addition to the cast as well. There’s some introspection in this one that we didn’t get during the first novel, and I think The Crown of Embers is better for it. I think I liked the sequel just as much, if not more, than the first. Elisa is learning things that challenge her faith, and yet she still manages to take things in stride, trying to do what is best for her kingdom. It was fascinating learning just a little bit more about the Inviernos, because before now they’ve just been faceless killers out to destroy Joya d’Arena.

Every scene with Hector and Elisa overwhelmed me, sometimes with squee, but I did cry at least twice, because their situation is a hard one. Especially given outside forces and their plans for both Hector’s and Elisa’s futures. The romance is so delicious though, because it has that thread of angst, that very good and simple reason why Elisa and Hector cannot be together. What made it even better is that Hector is so very aware, and enlightens Elisa as well, to the power his queen has over him, not only as her personal guard and Lord-Commander, but as a man in love with her. She could command him to do anything, and he would have to do it. He looks out for himself and for Elisa, and it was nice to see the power imbalance talked about for once. Another thing I liked was the openness about sex. Mara is instrumental in Elisa’s romantic education, and it was nice to see the topic talked about so freely, as if it were just a natural thing (which it is), without a mention of virginity or judgment. It was great. Carson outdid herself. Pick this one up right away and check back here in August/September for the review of the final installment of the trilogy, The Bitter Kingdom.