Triple Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

September 15, 2013 4 - 4.5 Stars, Fantasy, Kick-Ass Heroines, Rae Carson 6 ★★★★

Triple Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns Published by Greenwillow Books on September 20, 2011
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 423
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.
I’m going to try something a little different here and discuss the full trilogy of The Girl of Fire and Thorns in one review, since I read all three books over the span of two weeks.

I was late getting into this series, but The Girl of Fire and Thorns drew me right in.  Elisa is much like any sixteen-year-old, albeit one who possesses magical powers and is soon to marry a king.  She’s insecure and naive to the ways of political machinations, and her insecurity is reinforced as her new husband, while kind, treats her more like a favored pet than a beloved wife.  But she learns quickly, and the strong, confident Queen at the end of the first book bears little resemblance to the girl we meet at the beginning.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was my favorite book of the trilogy, and I felt The Crown of Embers lacks a bit by comparison.  The biggest factor was the feeling of repetitiveness in CoE.  For the first 50% of the book, Elisa escapes from one assassination attempt to another.  I did enjoy the growth she’s shown between the two books, and the strong, confident Queen we see in CoE is barely recognizable from the timid girl in Girl.

I know this won’t be a popular opinion, but about Hector… Hector, whom I adored in Girl, becomes whiny, childish, and manipulative in CoE.  What happened to the confident, sexy Hector from Girl?  I think this personality switch was designed to show the depth of his feelings for Elisa, but it just didn’t work for me.  In TBK, some of the old Hector returned, but he still retained a lot of those unpleasant traits.  Hector was the biggest disappointment of the series for me, simply because he was initially such a charismatic and magnetic character.

Throughout the series, there are repeated mentions of Elisa’s “plump” body.  While reading Girl, I was surprised that Elisa was not stick-thin, because, let’s face it – there’s not a lot of room in YA fantasy for a chubby heroine.  It was a refreshing change, even though it was the source of a great deal of insecurity for Elisa, and it caused her some ridicule.  I didn’t enjoy all of the focus on her weight, but I assumed that it would become a non-issue once she gained some confidence from kicking ass all over the kingdom.  Instead, a long, food-deficient trek across the desert causes her to lose some weight, and all of a sudden, she’s “better.”  Although she’s thinner, she’s not quite thin enough, as we’re reminded in the other two books.  I’m left wondering why Elisa’s weight was a focus of the books when the message doesn’t seem very positive.  If any other readers have a different take on this, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

While this has no impact on my rating, I also have to mention Elisa’s Godstone, the source of her mystical power.  It’s an actual stone, attached to her navel.  It heats and cools in response to Elisa’s emotions or to impending danger.  It gets poked at and tugged on, and I found it all a bit nauseating, because I kept picturing it as an abnormal growth.

Speaking of growth (how’s that for a segue?), The Bitter Kingdom fully captures Elisa’s transformation into a powerful Queen, and the romance between her and Hector, while not perfect, was much improved.


6 Responses to “Triple Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson”

    • Stephanie K

      Thanks, Cindy! That can certainly be the case with sequels, although Catching Fire jumps out as a sequel that was just as great as its predecessor.

  1. Bookworm1858

    I was also disappointed in CoE but TBK totally redeemed the series for me-I loved just about everything in that book (including Hector’s narration. So surprised to see that you’re not really a fan as I know loads of bloggers are. I like him alright but he’s not a fave for me.)

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