The Bitter Kingdom
By: Rae Carson
Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.
OH GOODNESS! ALL OF THE GREATNESS. This was just as amazing as the other two books and was a worthy ending to a fantastic series. I mean, this book has all the adventure of the first two, with avalanches, secret tunnels, and even giant scorpions. Including all the characters that you've come to love in the series, like Elisa, Hector, Belen, Storm and Mara (and new characters to love, like Mula).
Elisa: As if the first two books didn't give us enough reason to love her and want to be her. When you think she can't get any more complex or courageous, she does. I loved seeing her come into her own. She was a great ruler in The Crown of Embers, but now she knows it; Elisa fully embraces her responsibilities and strengths. She steps out of her comfort zone, she trusts others but she doesn't rely on them to save her (not that she did or didn't do any of those in the other books, she just hardly hesitates now).
and then when she's in Invierne she came up with all the sass. It was so great. Examples,
"What do you know of Invierno honor, little queen?"
"I know that your condescension shows little."
"You have killed us all," he says. "Without a source of power-"
"I have saved you all, you colossal idiot."
Hector: I lovedlovedLOVED reading his perspective. I had read that he was telling parts of the story somewhere before the release, but I forgot until I read the chapter heading that said it was him. After reading The King's Guard (the short novella from Hector's POV before Elisa came along) I was familiar with his voice. It was the perfect way to tell all that happened during his time as a captive.
His love for Elisa is, yet again, so terrific. You really believe what he feels for her and GOODNESS, he is so sweet. One of my favorite things was his analytical side, he's a true warrior and strategist.
Also, quotes from him:
"It doesn't seem right to...take liberties when I have not given you an answer."
"There are a thousand things I'd say to him, if I could. Rosario is safe. You were supposed to olutlive me. Elisa is ten times the ruler you were. I've stolen your wife. I'm not sorry. I miss you."
Storm: Ohhhhh, dear Storm, I can't help but love you. and be amused by you. and be sometimes be annoyed by you. But mostly love you.
He was so fantastic in this book. I loved all that he added to their little group. Every time he didn't get sarcasm made me actually laugh out loud. Then when he became more than just the ambassador. Each and every time he said that he was a loyal citizen of Elisa's it made my heart so happy. Because I knew that he had found his place with Elisa and that she truly cherished him as an advisor.
Then him and Alodia? SO. MUCH. YES.
Storm has found his way into my heart and I think he'll remain one of my favorite supporting characters of all time. His story arc was just as real as Elisa's or Hector's.
Things he said that made me smile or straight up laugh:
"By reputation, you are portly and unattractive," Storm points out..."But you are neither of those things."
"Storm's voice booms across the tiny valley, menacing and curselike. He's intoning something in the Lengua Classica. Then a giggle bubbles from my throat when I realize it's a silly rhyme about poppy fields and drunk sheep."
"Those are all terrible names," Storm says, looking perplexed."
"Lord-Commander, I won't pretend to love her the way you do. But I do owe her my life and my honor. I am Joyan now. And we are, all of us, filthy liars." <<<This line wins him all of the love
"Storm leans toward her and says in a teaching voice, "Joyans consider it rude to express one's true opinion unless it is unequivocally flattering."
Her brow furrows. "Then how do they express anything at all?"
"You always speak truly, yes?"
"Yes, Your Highness."
"...And you believe my sister has the kind of power she claims?"
"No," he says. "She is being modest." <<<and this one I threw the book down and fist-pumped so hard, man.
Waterfall: First off. Dude, I want a name like "The Frozen Waterfall Mourns Her Raging Youth". That's freaking awesome!
Getting that out of my system, I didn't think I cared about her as much as I did. But then things happened and I was left with all of this, "NO!" inside of me.
Mula (Red): Favorite new character award goes to: Mula! She was so cute and helpful. I loved that she was willing to do so much to help Elisa because she rescued her and treated her like an actual human being. One of my favorite moments was when she screamed for Elisa when she fell into the trap. Basically none of their plans would have worked without this spunky little ten-year-old.
Examples of Mula's greatness:
"Now when I'm scared, it's not because of meanness. And today I chose my own scared. It's always a good scared, when you get to pick it your own self."
"I turn to find everyone les staring at us without bothering to disguise their amusement. Except Red, who wrinkles her nose at me. "That was gross," she says."
The greatest part of these books is how many things happen. I would say that twice the amount of plot happens in these books as in other books their same length. These truly chronicle Elisa's epic journey from out of place, young princess who spent most days idle into this queen who is far and away the most powerful politic figure in the whole of the world.
I love how when they have to plan their way out of something, Rae Carson doesn't tell you beforehand what their plan is. She explains it to you while they're doing it to avoid repetition. I think it adds more intrigue to each obstacle.
Rae isn't afraid to make Elisa challenge those she loves. Elisa put Cosme in power and she is Alodia's sister and yet she has to make a claim for their kingdoms. And she does it without hesitation because she knows it's the only way to save everyone. She no longer questions her right to claim power, the reality of all the good she's done finally hits her.
Also, the important concept is addressed that Elisa could have run and hidden any time she felt like it in this whole mess, but she didn't. She fought for the world because she knew she should.
"War damages different people in different ways..."
"A word is the only thing in the world made more powerful by absence than existence."
"Painting the enemy as being as inhuman as possible is a great way to win a war."
"I think sometimes when we find love we pretend it away, or ignore it, or tell ourselves we're imagining it. Because it's the most painful kind of hope there is. It can be ripped away so easily. By indifference. By death..."
"It's terrifying. But it's a manageable terror. Because I've chosen it."
"People are always so much braver, so much nobler, than I ever imagine."
"Peace is such hard work. Harder than war. It takes way more effort to forgive than to kill."
"And people are never more atrocious as when they are afraid."
"It's something I'll have to think about when I have time, how death doesn't always indicate a failure--of protection, of strategy, of character."