★ ★ ★ ★
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson | Greenwillow (an imprint of HarperCollins) | 2011 – 2013 | Hardcover $17.99
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king — a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.
I really liked the first book in this series, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. There’s quite a lot of action from start to finish, which I think makes up for the slower character development… or in some cases complete lack of development, but if you’re looking for a quick-paced YA high-ish fantasy, this is it. My main beef was with the religious/magic system, which seems to be based on some combo of Catholicism and some kind of pink-toy-aisle idea of sparkly things = power… shiny gemstones implanted in your belly button make you special? Really? But I know I’m being a grumpy cynic here, and a little eye-rolling over this doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book all THAT much, so whatevs.
The Crown of Embers is pretty strong second installment… and I’m always a little wary of YA trilogies, because it is so so so easy for the second book to be nothing more than exposition/set-up for the 3rd book, but thankfully that was not the case for this one! It had enough action and character growth to stand up for itself, I think.
The Bitter Kingdom is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, with plenty of little twists and turns to keep the reader guessing but ultimately gratifying. Still plenty of space for a continuation of the series, too, should the author decide to try it (or space for the reader to let her imagination run free, should she feel so inclined).
Let’s get real for a minute: the series as a whole is just a little hokey, honestly. I mean, the entire thing revolves around a princess with a magical gemstone in her belly button for heaven’s sake. But it’s all super fun anyway if the reader can just get over it. Reminded me of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna stories.
That said — and I’m not the only one who’s noticed this, based on Goodreads reviews — Carson could have used a way more thorough editor for this series! I try to be forgiving because, hey, mistakes happen, and the story is strong enough to draw me in anyway, but all the little mistakes really started to add up!
Actually, I found myself wishing that the books were done as a full-fledged series rather than “just” a trilogy. Glowing belly jewels aside, I think the story and the world it’s built in could easily have been expanded (and in some ways refined) into multiple huge volumes… but maybe that’s just me.
Publication information: Carson, Rae. The Girl of Fire and Thorns. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2011. Print. ; Carson, Rae. The Crown of Embers. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2012. Print. ; Carson, Rae. The Bitter Kingdom. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2013. Print.
Source: Public library
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