Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Crown of Embers - Rae Carson

Title: The Crown of Embers (sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns)
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins), 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 410 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: December 7, 2012
Finished: December 12, 2012

From the inside cover:

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trail of long-forgotten-and forbidden-clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom-despite everything-she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

After reading The Girl of Fire and Thorns last year, I loved it so much I knew I'd be reading the sequels. The Crown of Embers thankfully doesn't disappoint, in fact, I think I liked it even better than the first book.

The Crown of Embers takes place where the first book left off: Elisa is queen after Alejandro dies and names her the ruler, but confidence in her reign as queen is waning. Elisa is targeted numerous times both by members of her own court as well as Inviernos. After discovering an exiled Invierno hiding out in an underground settlement under the city who tells them of a divine source of power that only bearers of the Godstone can access, Elisa and her closest companions go on a journey to obtain this source of power to secure her position as queen.

I loved that this newest installment had even more political intrigue than the previous book, and it's rife with issues such as misogyny and monarchy, strategy, palace politics; it was a joy to read such an intelligent premise.

Elisa is once again one of my favourite YA female protagonists; she's strong, cunning, intelligent and compassionate, but is still vulnerable enough to make her a realistic 17-year-old. I also love her sarcastic sense of humour, it was a wonderful way to balance an otherwise serious novel. The other characters are well-developed and enjoyable too; readers see another side of Ximena, Mara gets more exposure especially in the latter half of the book, Hector is just plain wonderful, and I really enjoyed having Storm in the group (his interactions with Elisa were hilarious).

One thing I have to give the author credit for is the romance, which has a bigger role in this installment than in the previous one. The relationship between Elisa and Hector is wonderfully portrayed first of all, a great example of showing versus telling. The relationship is grounded in mutual respect and admiration, doesn't happen instantly like in most YA stories, and is incredibly mature (emotional maturity, not sexually).

There aren't enough words to express how much love I have for this book, so just read it, it really is awesome. The third book comes out next year and I will be impatiently waiting for it.

Thoughts on the cover:
Keeping consistent with the first book, there's the nondescript background with the Godstone front and center, with Elisa's face inside. I like the colour scheme, lots of blues and purples with a bit of green.

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