Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review - The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2)The Crown of Embers
by Rae Carson
Hardcover, 410 pages
Published September 18, 2012 by Greenwillow Books

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. 

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I kind of knew this book would be a treat to read. But I did not anticipate how much. The first in the trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, was a surprise treat - "caught me off-guard great" I wrote. This second book was all that... again, which is remarkable.

Elisa is so... un-assuming. Even as queen, the story follows her thought pattern and as she questions herself, I grew more concerned that she might be right. She's trying to be a strong queen, but she doesn't really know how and her attempts feel clumsy, but there's just no right answers. When things start falling apart, it is so real and so... unavoidable. 

I could hardly put the book down. Elisa grasps for her kingdom, but it slips from her hands. So slowly, so agonizingly sweetly, she falls in love. Everything that happened in Fire and Thorns just make each moment that much more fleeting, more treasured because of her acceptance of fate. I love her calculating thoughts as she faces her destiny... rises up to the challenge of being queen... accepts her heart. Elisa is so real. 

Always there is that distinct UN-greatness, too. Her Godstone is great, but it's lodged in Elisa's belly-button and embarrasses her as much as increases her. She has to be humble and embrace her weaknesses if she has any hope of succeeding and I just love the juxtaposition of it. 

Some of the story is told from Hector's point of view, too. His character unfolds slowly revealing his childhood, his hopes for love, his respect for his family, his incredible sense of honor. As he allows himself to love, he is put in a difficult position. He will save Elisa's life at the cost of his own without a moment's hesitation, but his focus on her starts effecting his ability to protect her. He recognizes how love eclipses his senses putting her in more danger.

What are these lovers to do? The choices they make are costly. Lives are at stake and there's always the weighing of that cost. Other, minor characters, are also essential. They do what is best - or what they think is best - and each decision brings consequences and leads to more difficult decisions. *rubs hands gleefully* It's amazingly complex, fast-paced... a perfect book to follow The Girl of Fire and Thorns. There is not so much a cliffhanger ending as much as... all these choices leading to a surprising climax that requires another book to answer.

If I have learned anything from Carson's first two books, it's that anything can happen to anyone at any time. Those "cute" coincidences where things "just work out" that I see in stories?  Yeah... not so here. Nope. Here the sand actually rubs raw, the bad guys are skilled assassins that get their targets, blood flows and gets sticky and messy, and it takes time to recover from injuries. (Imagine!)

My Rating: 4.98 - I love the characters, I love the situations, I even love hating the bad guys. I was frustrated right along with Elisa and Hector when they were frustrated. The world-building cracks me up sometimes like the Godstone - there's always an element of casual reality in the midst of epic drama that is so unique. Carson's writing style continues to catch me off guard. I expect to be able to set it aside and am surprised to find my knuckles gripping my Nook fiercely unwilling to stop reading until I gallop to the end.

Cover & Title: This is weird for me, but the cover still doesn't draw me. I see the gem - it's beautiful. I love the colors. I just don't feel the connection to the story with this cover.

Crown of Embers. by Rae CarsonThe title, too, eludes me. I have to look up this series by the author's name, which is very memorable. Rae? Love your name!!  The titles... are mouthfuls that don't remind me of how these books FEEL to me. Don't get me wrong... there's a crown in this book and "ember" fits well, but... *shrug* What would I call it? Something boring, like Desert Queen, maybe. Or The Elusive Throne. Or... ok... The Crown of Embers is very pretty. And it does fit. I'll probably always look these up by searching "Rae Carson", though.

Check out this cover!! I want a copy of this one!

Rae CarsonRae Carson 
I write books about teens who must do brave things. I'm originally from California, but I moved to Ohio to marry my husband, who is the smartest and therefore sexiest man I know. We live in Columbus with my teenaged stepsons, who are awesome. My books tend to contain lots of adventure, a little magic and romance, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices. I especially love to write about questions I don't know the answers to.

Two Novellas that go with the Trilogy: