In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.
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. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.
WARNING: This review WILL have spoilers for The Girl of Fire and Thorns! Read my review of the first book HERE.
Oh Rae Carson, Rae Carson, Rae Carson – how dare you pull at my heartstrings like that? Thank God I waited to start this book until I had an ARC of The Bitter Kingdom in hand as well. Also, hip hip hooray for authors who GET characters and write REAL characters and ohmygosh guys I can’t get over these CHARACTERS. Erm, anyways, let’s get reviewing, shall we?
The story picks up on Elisa’s birthday, a day that should have been full of celebration and adoration for and from her people. Instead, Elisa is once again attacked by an animagus, who warns that her enemies are not as defeated as she would think. They want Elisa as a “willing sacrifice,” though she doesn’t know why. Her journey to discovery leads her to more questions about her Godstone, her beliefs and even the founding of her nation. Along the way, she meets new friends and discovers that some old ones might have more to them than meets the eye.
The stakes are certainly high in this novel, as that first attempt on her life is only one of many throughout the book. Elisa is constantly being hounded, even by those she thought were friends, and it takes her intellect and the combination of others to keep her safe at all times. I never knew where the next attack was going to come from, but I knew with certainty it was coming and I had to hold my breath til it did.
I was going to try to talk coherently about this book, but it turns out I’m fighting everything in me not to talk and talk and talk about the characters in this book. In my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I mentioned that none of the characters really grabbed me except for Elisa. Not so in this book! Elisa was the prime example of a real, rounded main character that I wish more authors would follow, as always, but the cast around her was strengthened immeasurably in this book. Her companions worked in symphony with her, each with their own talents that made them important and none of them shouldering an undo amount of work. They all had faults where the others picked up the slack. They were all also really fun to hang out with.
And can I get a round of applause for Rae for adding in a gay character whose first attribute is NOT that he’s gay, but rather that he’s a good guy who’s freaky amazing with a sword and oh by the way he’s gay but it’s not really a big deal? Because CONDE TRISTAN. That is all.
Also, let’s talk the romance in this book. I’ve mentioned that Rae wrote possibly my favorite love triangle in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, mostly because HUGE SPOILER FOR THE FIRST BOOK COMING the guys both die in the end. Maybe that makes me morbid, but it was a nice change from the norm. Now Elisa is realizing that she’s fallen in love with Hector, her fierce protector. For the first time in a long time, this is an ENTIRE romantic arc that I have shipped. Hector is not the first man she adores, with whom she shares such a magical connection that she doesn’t need to shop around. She’s fallen in love before, been burned, been hurt–and nothing about Hector and Elisa is instant. They love each other but they recognize the obstacles they face and don’t let their love dictate their actions when those actions would be stupid politically.
So why the docked star on this review? Mostly because I am terribly hard to please with middle books in trilogies, and I felt like the most exciting things in this book was set up for The Bitter Kingdom. The ending of her journey left me a little bit unsatisfied, as well. (Though the end of the book itself left me screaming. So there’s that.) I also still don’t feel like I have a completely solid grasp of the world building, though that could also just be because I haven’t read the first book in a little while.
All in all, though, I immensely enjoyed this book. It was a solid follow up to The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and it left me screaming for more. If you’re into fantasy books, this is one of the best series I’ve read in a while. I also seriously recommend these books if you’re into character heavy books, because THESE CHARACTERS. I’m usually plot-centric myself, so when *I* fall in love with an entire cast this hard it’s saying something.
Basically, go read these books. GO. I’ll wait. (I have The Bitter Kingdom on my Kindle.)