The Crown of Embers
by: Rae Carson
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.
Oh goodness, this book BLEW ME AWAY. I thought I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns and then this book comes and blows the last one of the water. Everything improved (even in the places I thought the series needed no improvement). I didn't want it to end! And now I have to WAIT? Ugh.
Wonderful and Clever Heroine: CHECK
Elisa: Elisa just got better and more developed as a character. She was so clever and sure of herself. She was smart enough to get herself and everyone out of trouble multiple times. Sure, from the first book to this one she made a slight regression, but being the Queen of a vast country that is at war and falling apart is a far cry from being the leader of an impromptu, relatively tiny rebellion force that is expected to die out anyway. And yes, that prepared her to rule, but it didn't make her impervious to all problems all the time. I like that ruling didn't always come naturally for her, she had to work at ordering things and telling people what to do. And she made a lot of mistakes, but not frustratingly so. I think her character definitely reached new heights in this second book and I can't wait to see where the third one takes her.
Brave and Loyal Hero: CHECK
Let's just talk about Hector for a moment.
BASICALLY HE'S PERFECT.
Okay, now that I got that out there I think I can go on with this portion of the review in a semi-collected manner (but don't get me wrong, it's going to be hard. Given how much I love Hector this part could just be me shouting words at you like LOVE. WONDERFUL. ADORABLE. But I'll try to refrain.). I said it before in my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but I love this series for the fact that it doesn't pander to the reader's expectations for the romantic aspect. First in that Elisa has had three different possible romantic interests, but not at the same time and not in the typical love-triangle way. Second in that the real romance doesn't enter into the story until the second book (not even sort of). And third in that Hector and Elisa's relationship started out as a very strong friendship and developed over a sizable amount of time.
Extraordinary Supporting Characters: CHECK
Ximena: I find her character really interesting, but she annoyed me so badly in this book. I was glad when Elisa finally told her off for always insisting she knew what was best for Elisa and for being SO willing to risk other people's lives to keep her safe.
Belen: I'm glad he got a second chance to do some good. It shows how good of a ruler (and friend) Elisa is for forgiving him so willingly. It's what they both needed in the end.
Conde Eduardo and General Luz-Manuel: I was so fascinated by the idea that Elisa had enemies on both sides, both in her own Quorum as well as from Invierno. Their motives made sense and they were pretty well thought out as far as villainy goes.
Storm: His exchanges with Elisa are priceless! I love there reluctant acquaintanceship (I might even say friendship by the end of this book). I'm glad that he's going with Elisa on her journey in the next book because it means there will be more of him.
Leaf (The Gatekeeper): I'll just say that I may or may not have pictured him as King Bumi from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Go ahead, judge me. ;)
Doctor Enzo: That man was HILARIOUS. It got to the point where I was almost glad when people got injured because it meant more of Doctor Enzo's ridiculousness (note: I did say almost... ;) )
Incredible Plot and World-Building: CHECK
Another thing I love about these books is how much happens in them. It feels more like a journey than just one adventure. I love the feeling that the series is going somewhere important at the same time that this one particular book is. It's really hard to describe, but what I mean is the hints at something deeper going on, something more important. I guess it's a sort of ominous feeling about what is going on in that world and about all the things that we don't know yet. That feeling is one of my favorite things about fantasy books and this series does it perfectly.
The religion is just as well done in this book. I loved how accurate how they studied their holy scriptures was. They took the words back to their meanings and looked at how many times and where those words were used. That's how scriptures are studied (at least in Christianity) in real life and so it felt more real and genuine. I also love how Rae Carson doesn't just allude to the religion (as a lot of fantasy series do), but takes the time to make passages and quotes that her characters come back to. I appreciate how religion is portrayed and how it affects everything the main character does. I think it gives light to some important aspects of faith and belief that aren't often addressed in YA literature.
And the expansion of the world she built felt very natural and authentic. I'm so interested in learning the history of the Inviernos in the next book and seeing how the world expands even beyond what it did in this book.
Great Writing: CHECK
Once again, Rae Carson manages to turn ordinary sentences into tiny works of art. I love how so many details are added in just for the sake of telling the story, rather than because they all have a huge and important meaning. It makes the book so much more immersive. You feel like you are living it with Elisa, and that takes talent as a writer. I also would love to compliment the timing of these books. By that I mean that I think it's wonderful how time is dealt with in this series. One chapter could cover one day or one week and yet everything flows so naturally.
"...and I will not pretend weakness. Not ever, not for anyone."
"I am wretched in my unusual desire to live beyond the shame of my failure."
"It's nice to consider that God may not count imperfection as an obstacle to working out his will in the world."
"But maybe that's how it's supposed to be. Perhaps by forcing smallness onto this thing that is so huge in my heart, I'll be able to manage it."
“I love you the way a drowning man loves air. And it would destroy me to have you just a little.”