ARC Review: “The Bitter Kingdom” by Rae Carson

The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson

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The epic conclusion to Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.

Four and a half stars

Thanks to Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books for this eARC! This title will be released on August 27th, 2013.

WARNING: This review WILL have spoilers for The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Crown of Embers. Read my review of #1 HERE and my review of #2 HERE.

The one question you want answered is: is this a satisfying conclusion to an amazing series? Right off the bat, I’m pleased to tell you that yes, yes it does. On more levels than I may be capable of describing.

The story picks up where you might expect: the enemy has Hector, and Elisa is heading on a fairly certain suicide mission after him. Mara, Belen and Storm follow her, loyal to the bone–perhaps too loyal to keep her from doing this stupid thing. Hector knows in his heart that his queen is coming for him, and even within his bonds he tries to help her stay safe from his captors. As it turns out, however, saving Hector is only the tip of the iceberg. When she finds him, her trip is far from over, and the enemies she has to face get more dangerous with every step. In the end, Elisa has to face the biggest question of all: what if she has no power after all?

One of the first things I was interested by was the fact that Hector gets a few chapters of narration in this novel. There isn’t many, and they mostly serve to show what’s happening to him while he and Elisa are apart. Frankly, I’m never a big fan of switching narrators for only a few chapters just because the main narrator happens to be somewhere else, but I loved Hector so much that I never minded too much.

As I said, finding and rescuing Hector doesn’t take up nearly as much of the book as I thought it would. Even better, it isn’t so much a story of Elisa on a rescue mission as it is Hector and Elisa working hard on both sides to save the other. Neither of them ever takes a seat, whether they need rescuing (and Elisa does, later on) or they are the rescuer. This feeds something I said in my review of book 2, about how the characters in these books never let one person do all the work. Every mission, every movement is a partnership of friends.

And while we’re talking characters, let’s keep talking characters, because I can’t stop talking about Rae’s characters. She was really good about not introducing too many new, important characters, but the ones we did get to meet where fantastic. The expansion of Storm’s back story with new characters worked extremely well, especially. I also loved the reunion of characters that we hadn’t seen since book 1 towards the end. The book really came full circle, so you could see how everyone–not just Elisa–had changed.

The plot itself surprised me. I expected the rescue of Hector. I expected the taking of the city. These were both laid out in book 2. I did NOT expect any of the things that happened in between. But, of course, this is Elisa we’re talking about, so of course she can’t do anything quietly. She came into her own in more new ways, even more fearless with every step. In the end, when she completed her service, the action that led to her Godstone falling out seemed to pale in comparison with everything else she’d done–as it was supposed to.

My only negative bit was that I felt that there was too many new questions about the history of the Godstone and the land that were opened up. I can only hope that Rae plans to revisit this land to answer some of them, but that’s not certain, so for right now I have to take the series as it is. Despite the perfect ending, I still had too many questions that I may never have answers to, and I’m not a fan of that.

When we come to the end of a series, I always start writing my review as more of a series overview than anything else. Now, as we say goodbye, I honestly want to cry. So many things about these books where so perfect. The characters, obviously, were my favorite part. Elisa was so real and connectable that I wish we could be best friends, and her story friends grew around her into a unit that made me wish I could be a part of the family. The romance was also handle super realistically. Elisa had a man she grew to love, a man she loved in the way young love works, and a man who she loved as a true partner and friend. She had to grow up enough to find her perfect match – she didn’t just get one on the first try. The action and adventure of the plot was never stale – I actually read books 2 and 3 in the same 24 hours.

Go have the happiness that you deserve, Elisa. Mara, you really can have some too. And Red Sparkle Stone better get her own spin off, is all I’m saying. (Hint hint, Rae. Hint. Hint.)

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