If you’re craving an immersive fantasy, I suggest you pick up the first book in this series, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I listened to this trilogy via audiobook, and it was an enjoyable read. I admit I was hesitant to read Rae Carson again, as I had previously read her Gold Seer Trilogy. Though I enjoyed that trilogy, it wasn’t enough to endear me to read Carson’s earlier works. However, with some motivation from various online friends, I took the plunge.
Title: The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: August 27, 2013
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Length: 433 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “Elisa is a fugitive.
Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness. Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight.
Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa né Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three loyal companions deep into the enemy’s kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne. Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover on this, her final journey, could change the course of history.
But that is not all. She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for.
Even of those who hate her most.”
One of my favorite parts of this series is Elisa’s character growth. She starts as a shy, quiet girl, unsure of her body and why God had “gifted” her with a Godstone embedded in her navel. As she journeys through the dessert and then back to her homeland, her eyes are open, and this shoots her forward into an adventure she wouldn’t have otherwise made. Along the way, she found lasting friendship and love–two things she never really had at home. While she’s working her way through what God’s “will” really means, she learns it’s not exactly what others say or want her to believe either. I really enjoyed how Elisa took things into her own hands, not only growing as Queen but also as a young woman.
Despite this I found some parts of the conclusion to be a bit predictable, and some parts dragged a bit as well, especially as they ventured to Invierne. However, I did like the ending but I almost thought it too…easy. Everything seems to wrap up quite nicely, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Elisa really came into herself, both accepting of her fate and herself as a person. Some of the questions I had about her family were answered in this book, too, and I’m glad to see there is a reconciliation in the near future.
Another of my favorite parts were the friendships, even as some developed into romance. Mara is an excellent side character, and she, too, slides into her role as Elisa’s companion as if she were meant to be there all along. I also loved how Balen (sp?) turned around, proving his loyalty, especially after the events of the first book. I also enjoyed the development between Hector and Elisa. I understand his hesitancy when it came to revealing his romantic feelings, and I think they’re valid. But of course the events throughout the books really allowed himself to see who Elisa truly was to him.
Overall an enjoyable series but I don’t quite think this is one I’ll add to my personal collection, though I can see myself recommending it to others. If you didn’t see (hear? lol) the news, the paperback editions are getting new designs. The possible available date for these new covers are spring 2019, but there’s nothing set in stone yet.