Book of the Week-The Bitter Kingdom ARC

I am so excited to be reviewing the book that I am today. First off, ed it is the first ever ARC I have ever gotten so I’m super attached to it. Secondly, information pills Rae Carson is a brilliant writer, and caught me up in her trilogy so fast. I was very excited to read this book and I really enjoyed it.

I wanted to wait a little longer to review it so it was a little closer to the August 27th release, especially since it’s not out yet and I am doing a MOSTLY spoiler free review.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Rae Carson and her The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, you’re in luck. One, I’m about to paste the description from the first novel and two, I already reviewed The Girl of Fire and Thorns back in January, which you can read here.

The GoodReads summary of The Girl of Fire and Thorns:

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

Doesn’t that sound SO good? That’s because it IS good. Rae Carson has created an absolutely beautiful fantasy world, with rich characters and an original story that immediately caught me up. I was so happy to have a chance to read the finale early and I am even more happy to share my review with you.

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson 

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GoodReads / Amazon / Barnes and Noble 

Genre:
young adult, fantasy

Part of a Series?
yes, the third and final installment of The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy

You May Like if You Liked:
anything by Tamora Pierce, Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima, Eon by Alison Goodman, Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Plot Summary: 

To sort of recap the previous two books, Elisa was born with a Godstone in her belly button, making her one of God’s chosen ones, to do his work. It is a huge expectation and she never really feels that she lives up to it. Her father and sister arrange for her to marry the king of the nearby country, a king of a country in turmoil who needs the chosen one. However, when she gets there, he hides her away as a guest of the kingdom, not his wife, and she feels useless. She does make friends along the way, and she saves the kingdom, though her husband dies. In the second book, she’s a queen with the smallest grasp on the kingdom and no one seems to listen to her, a seventeen year old girl with no real claim to the throne. She goes searching for something to bring her power in the a kingdom that is turning against her.

When we reach the third book of this series, Elisa is literally at the bottom of the barrel of life. Her queendom, which is hers by marriage not by birthright, is in turmoil as some of her highest nobles start questioning her rule and starting mutiny. The love of her life, though he does not know it yet (or does he?), Hector, has been stolen away from some of the most feared enemies, the Inverni, and she is determined to get him.

But she also has a few other things in mind as well. Can she be queen enough to regain the country, keep them safe and rule? Can she save Hector? Can she live up to this expectation that she has had since birth, when the Godstone was found in her belly button, declaring her one of god’s chosen ones, to do his work. She is being hunted by her own countrymen and by her enemies.

The Bad: 

Uh, it ended so soon and since it was an advanced readers copy, there’s hardly anyone to talk to about it? That’s really all I can think of. I sped through this book so incredibly fast. I was dying to read it as soon as I finished The Crown of Embers back in January.

So I guess my only gripe with this book is that its over, the series is over and I can’t read on to see what more adventures come in the future. I want to know all what happens to Elisa and Hector and all of them :) But I do have the chance to read the series over and over again, which I know I definitely will do.

The Good: 

So. Much. Good.

Where do I even begin with this novel? I love fantasy novels. I read paranormal and dystopian and sci-fi but when it all comes down to it, fantasy is where its at. When I first read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I immediately thought of some of my favorite writers, like Tamora Pierce and Cinda Williams Chima. Both of these ladies create these wonderful, believable, beautiful fantasy worlds and Rae Carson does it flawlessly as well. She creates this world that you get so caught up in, you forget for a moment that its not even real. Her countries and the customs and the cultures she creates in these novels are so real. She gets even the tiniest of details, even in the doubts that Elisa has about the history she’s been taught, that you just marvel at the creativity and originality behind it.

Elisa is such a wonderful character, in that she is the hero of the story, through and through. Even with her relationship with Hector, and his determination to keep her safe, as her guard, she still is the one to save the day, to do what needs to be done to get what she wants. And she’s so strong, so different than the girl we first meet in the first book. She goes from being this fat, unconfident, shy girl to a proud, strong fighter. The decisions she makes, the solutions she comes up with are ones that surprised me but also made me cheer too. When she meets with her sister, who has essentially taken over queen duties of her kingdom, and her friend, Queen Cosme, what results from their meeting was so incredibly unexpected but also a fantastic plot twist and a show of the kind of changes Elisa has gone through and the growing up she had to do to get there.

Which leads me to the characters. Something I appreciate about fantasy novels is that they always create such memorable, unique and rich characters. Every character in this novel has his or her own unique personality that you completely believe in. They each are so different and yet so connected to similar missions, to similar goals. Elisa’s coming of age journey is not new, and yet because of the complexity and development of her character, her journey is fresh and new and you follow it with open eyes, and a racing in your heart. Hector is equally a complex character, torn by his duty to obey his queen but also his passion and love and determination to protect her, no matter what she commands of him. And this sort of pattern with these fully developed characters continues with the people that serve Elisa, her soldiers, her servants, her friends and her enemies. Every character comes with such a defining personality.

Rae Carson has created a trilogy that won’t be long forgotten because of the timelessness she creates in it. This is not a series that can go out of style or lose interest, because she creates a world that you get so easily swept up in and won’t ever want to leave. She belongs in the realms of authors like Kristin Cashore, Cinda Williams Chima and Tamora Pierce, because of her ability to create an epic fantasy with a fantastic cast of characters, with the strong and passionate Elisa at the helm.

Rating: 

5 out of 5 Stars. Easily

Recommended or Not? 

Definitely. Two of my absolute favorite authors on the planet are Tamora Pierce and Cinda Williams Chima and when I picked up The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I was so immediately swept up, caught up in this gorgeous fantasy world that I felt like I was in Tortall or the Seven Realms. I liked that it gave me such similar feelings to these books that I already love so much and I love that it was such a brand new story at the same time. I think Rae Carson is an absolutely fantastic writer, someone who deserves all the credit and awards she gets and more. I can’t wait to see what more comes from her as time goes on.

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I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of the Book of the Week.

I hope you all get a chance to read this entire trilogy, especially when the finale hits bookstores on August 27th!

Rae Carson is going on tour this fall as well so make sure to check out her website to see where she will be!

And check out previous book reviews in the Book of the Week section!

Tuesday Top Ten-Favorite Cliffhangers

So I was hanging out with my girls yesterday, ed (that would be Tatiana, Sylvia and Paulina, my girls from iFandoms Collide) and of course, most of our conversations center around books. Books books books. I run a young adult book blog, as well as Sylvia, Tatiana runs a Mortal Instruments site and Paulina runs a Divergent site.

Anyway, we obviously were talking about all these books and how we absolutely cannot wait until the sequels or final books, like Allegiant and City of Heavenly Fire and books like that.

And its SO true. There are so many books out there that I just can’t wait for. I can’t wait for Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and House of Hades by Rick Riordan and Allegiant by Veronica Roth and Champion by Marie Lu, and SO so so so many more.

Because let’s face it, these authors? They know exactly how to torture us, how to leave us hanging, dying for the next book, counting down the days just to find out what happens next .

So this is the inspiration for this week’s Tuesday Top Ten: the top ten cliffhangers. These nine books (and one movie) leave us hanging, cursing the authors and lamenting over the fact that we have to wait days, months, years to find out what happens next.

So here it goes guys, my favorite cliffhangers…that both left me excited and pissed off. In good ways of course :)

I am going to warn you guys right now, I’m talking about cliffhangers. Which means if you haven’t read these books, it includes spoilers. Just deal with it. Haha. Skip the ones you haven’t read yet!

10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 

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Suzanne Collins is a brutal lady who is fully capable of breaking all of our hearts and she seriously did that with Catching Fire. Honestly, she is SO lucky that I picked up this series literally like a few days before Mockingjay came out. If I would have had to wait all that time like the original fans did…I’d probably die. What a ridiculous ending. Like HOW DARE YOU Suzanne Collins for ending Catching Fire with the words “District 12 is Gone!” Like, how could you do that? I knew that there were rumblings of a rebellion going on, but I honestly didn’t expect this plan that they had come up with to actually work, or to lead to what it did. One minute, they’re trying to eliminate opponents in the arena, the next thing you know, Katniss is basically blowing up the arena and being taken away. It was insane. All this action is suddenly happening and you don’t know what’s going on, and then it just ends. It ends with the line that District 12 is gone, Katniss’s home is gone. You don’t know if her mother or Prim or Madge or anyone is safe. You don’t know anything. It just ends. I swear, I almost threw the book across the room.

9. Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout 

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I like these books a lot. I think Jennifer Armentrout creates a really fun, sci-fi book, with a lot of epic sexiness in it too. But there’s a lot of awesome sci-fi in it. I think people might look at a cover like this and be deterred from it because it looks like a romance novel, but it is SO much more than that. That being said, in this book, there’s a lot built up to this moment where Katy, Daemon, and the rest break into a facility to get Beth back. And here’s the thing, you know its not going to go perfectly. What plan ever goes perfectly? I’ll tell you: none. Ever. Never. So I knew something was going to go down, and I knew I was getting close to the end so I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty epic ending. What I didn’t expect was for it to end with Daemon, safe, and Katy, stuck inside, facing the very people that she needs to stay very, very far away from. She’s stuck! She turns away from Daemon to face whats coming after them and then it just ends! How could you do that to me? I was like, NO WAY! And now I have to wait until August 27th to find out what happens next. Who knows what happened to Katy!

8. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson 

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I tend to throw my books across the room, either when I’m like “that book was TERRIBLE” or when a book makes you so mad but in a good way. That’s exactly what The Crown of Embers did…except I had to hold myself back because I was reading this book on my Kindle. Probably not a good idea to throw that. But damn, does Rae Carson create an amazing fantasy world and weave a great story. She’s talented writer, but oh was I SO angry when I read the end of this novel. There had been so much going on, Elisa was on this impossible quest to find something that she didn’t even really know exists, she nearly dies, escapes, and is finally going to head home and hopefully bring her kingdom back together…and then the love of her life, Hector, though he doesn’t know it yet, is taken from her. Yanked away from her and now she has to go and rescue him, before they hurt him or torture him or kill him. I was SO MAD. All I could think of was…no, Elisa has to bring her kingdom back together, and she needs to save her people, and there’s already been way too much drama for this book AND NOW YOU TOOK AWAY HECTOR! I was not pleased about having to wait until August 27th for that but I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC so I know what happens :)

7. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo 

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OHMYGOD Leigh Bardugo is AMAZING. I am so into her books and I only picked them up a month ago! But I am officially addicted. She gives us an intricate fantasy world with incredible characters and an addicting story. She has inspired me so much with her books, and her world that I just started a fansite for her trilogy called The Grisha Army, and you should totally check it out! Anyway, that being said, and taken care of, Siege and Storm came out one week ago today. And I am STILL reeling over what happened in this book. I’m not going to spoil too much on this one because it just came out and I really am pushing people to read this series, but what Leigh does to her main character, Alina, is incredible. The kind of power she gives her, the motivations, the situations. You don’t see that ending coming in the slightest and when it does, you’re left, jaw dropped, heart racing, hoping for more pages, and knowing that you aren’t going to get any more. Rune and Rising, the third book, has no cover, no release date, nothing, of course, since Siege and Storm came out just last week. But I don’t know if I’ll make it, I need to know what happens with Alina and Mal and the Darkling and Sturmhond and all of them.

6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

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Oh Veronica Roth, you sneaky talented lady you know. Actually I can’t call you lady because that’s weird; you’re six months younger than me haha. But oh how dare you! The thing you have to understand about the Divergent series is that I purchased the first book on my Kindle and stayed up until about…I think one a.m.-ish to read it. Insurgent had just come out THAT day and so I immediately downloaded Insurgent and read it in about 3 or 4 hours. I distinctly remember the sun coming up as I finished that book. And I couldn’t even believe it. I was exhausted and uncomfortable and my eyes were burning and I was like…you did NOT just do this. You did not just end it that way, Veronica Roth. How dare you? And like I said, I read this book the day it came out, which is May 1st, 2012. The release date for Allegiant is October 27th. I’ve been waiting FOREVER it seems like to find out what is going to happen next. The very last line of the book is “Then the shouting begins.” SERIOUSLY? I can’t even handle it. I need to know what is going on…and I’ll have waited a year and half by the time I know.

5. Prodigy by Marie Lu 

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This has major spoilers. Don’t read this if you’ve never read Prodigy before. Seriously.

Marie Lu, you are an absolute genius. In a world where we are constantly getting new young adult dystopian series, you are an author that stands out amongst them all and I truly believe this. I know so many people who are over the whole dystopian books thing but this is one series I will pressure you to try, even if you’re over it. Its totally worth it. Its an absolutely amazing, one-of-a-kind series :) But this book…it almost feels like it would be the last book of the series, in a way. A lot of things happen to make it seem like a conclusion but then it completely 180s on you! Sure, there’s a leader but its a shaky leader and a shaky government and a government that is NOT supported by outside governments. And yay, maybe June and Day can finally get to be together but June is offered a position that would keep her away from Day, permanently and she doesn’t want to do that but then Day tells her to do it, and you learn that he does it because he is DYING. Day, the MAIN CHARACTER OF THE NOVEL BESIDES JUNE, is dying. How…how…how…NO! There’s NO way this is happening right now. Luckily enough, Prodigy came out in January of this year, and we only have to wait until November, not even a full year. Because I NEED to find out what happens next. You can’t kill a main character, you just can’t!

4. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 

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This is one of my favorite cliffhangers mostly because its absolutely hilarious. Seriously if you have not read these books yet, do not read this. Because it will kill the entire book series for you. You’re brought into the world of Shadowhunters, by Clary, a normal sixteen year old girl whose mom is kidnapped and she then finds out she’s a Shadowhunter and she meets super hot Jace Wayland and they’re trying to find a way to get her mom back and they learn she was once married to an evil guy named Valentine and he kidnapped her. All this fun, awesome, dramatic stuff is going on. And just when you think, there’s going to be this battle scene and things are going to mostly work out, and then you learn that Jace’s father is Valentine, and that Clary’s father is Valentine and that they’re brother and sister…and they’re falling in love. And you’re like…no, no way. No way is this happening right now. How, what, but, he’s and she’s and they…what?! I went out and bought City of Ashes the next morning, basically as soon as the bookstore opened because I was like…this can’t be right, this is NOT right. What a great way to get people to continue to read your books, Cassie, seriously.

3. Empire Strikes Back-Star Wars by George Lucas 

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The one movie on the list. I was trying to keep it all books but…I had to put it on there because it is one of the BEST cliffhangers of ALL time. The only reason its number 3 and not number 1 is because this movie and the following movie, both came up before I was even born so it wasn’t a huge cliffhanger for me, personally. I watched this movie for the first time when I was about five years old so it probably didn’t have the same impact on me as it would have if I had seen it for the first time, in theaters, at an older age. But its an amazing cliffhanger. Literally everything has gone to CRAP! Han Solo is frozen in carbonite and taken away to Jabba’s palace. The rebellion is feeling less than spectacular. Yoda and Obi Wan are hinting that there is “another” that could save the galaxy from the Empire and the Sith influence. And Luke! Luke has just found out that the person he must take down, the person he has to face and get rid of….is his FATHER! What an amazing moment in movie history. George Lucas kept this a secret from pretty much EVERYONE, and it was the most shocking moment, and the best cliffhanger. I’ve never felt more defeated at the end of a movie, ever. I don’t know how people waited to find out what happened next, I don’t think I could have handled that.

2. Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

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This book. This book KILLED me. There were so many feels, yanking you in about a hundred different directions. The biggest thing that I just loved about this book is that we finally get the whole gang, both old characters and new characters of the Heroes of Olympus all together in one book. Jason, Piper, Leo, Hazel, Frank, Percy, Annabeth, they’re all together now. And Percy and Annabeth are finally back together and they’re so cute and in love and I’m shipping them so hard, and then they get separated because Annabeth has to go on her own little separate quest for the Mark of Athena. But then they end up back together, he comes for her and you think, everything is going to be okay! We’re all going to get this statue out of this big ol’ hole in the ground and we’re going to restore peace between the Romans and the Greeks and we’re going to save the world! Yeah, of course, that wouldn’t be the way it happened. Percy and Annabeth get themselves into an impossible situation and they literally FALL INTO TARTARUS! They fall into the inescapable part of the Underworld…and then the book ends. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this. I thought for sure it was a joke. I kept turning the pages, hoping there was more. I am seriously counting down the days for The House of Hades this fall. I need my Percabeth back!

1. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

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Of course this is number one. This isn’t so much as a single cliffhanger; its more of a….how dare you leave us with such a defeated feeling and now we have to wait for the last book? The Half Blood Prince was released in July of 2006 and we didn’t get Deathly Hallows until July of 2007. A whole year of utter pain and agony, waiting to find out what happened next. And J.K. Rowling is amazing; she doesn’t reveal ANYTHING. No spoilers, no snippets, no sneak peeks. She just releases the title and the title doesn’t tell us anything. Half Blood Prince ends Dumbledore’s death, Hogwarts torn apart, the revelation that Snape is still a Death Eater (I mean, as far as we know) and just KILLED Dumbledore, and that Harry has to find these Horcruxes, which can be anywhere in the entire world, and its just…its like Empire Strikes Back all over again. You just feel so defeated. Dumbledore is dead, and he’s the head of the Order of the Phoenix…and the Horcrux they just went to go and find is a fake, and Snape…Snape is a BAD guy and everyone is just so sad and Harry just broke up with Ginny, and its just sad, sad, sad feelings all around. But its also excited and anxious feelings too because Harry isn’t coming back, and he’s going to go hunting for these Horcruxes and he’s going to go hunting for Snape and Voldemort and its just SO EPIC.

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So I hope you all enjoyed this week’s edition of the Tuesday Top Ten, and I hope I didn’t ruin too many books for you, because I would NEVER want to do that.

And don’t forget to check out some previous Top Ten Tuesdays!

If you guys have any ideas for some Top Ten lists, please contact me :) I am running out of ideas!

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE CLIFFHANGERS? AS ALWAYS, SHARE IN THE COMMENTS!

Book of the Week-The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Welcome back to the Book of the Week, treatment in its new day, physician Thursday! I changed the outline of my blog a little bit and moved the Book of the Week from Friday to Thursday. Okay, and I am totally aware that is neither Thursday nor Friday and I’m already doing seriously horrible at sticking to my blog outline. I’m trying to do better though and its been kind of a busy week.

But moving on. I am on a reading high right now, trying to make my goal of 200 books in a year and so far, I’ve read 11 books this year, which isn’t too bad considering its mid-January.

So it actually was kind of hard to pick a book for a book of the week.

However, I was reading the sequel to this week’s book of the week and I realized how much I enjoyed the story and I wanted to talk to people all about the sequel. Well, I can’t really do a post on the sequel of the novel without first talking about the first story. So here is this week’s Book of the Week.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson 

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So the basic premise of the novel is this: Elisa is a princess in the country of Orovalle, the younger sister, with no real purpose and no direct line to the throne. She isn’t beautiful; in fact, she enjoys her food a bit too much and is known for being a very kind princess but a very FAT princess. To make matters worse, she is married off to Alejandro, the king of the near by desert country of Joya d’Arena, in secret. Alejandro is gorgeous, and his son adores Elisa but she’s in a loveless, secret marriage and she feels even more useless than she did in her own country.

Because Elisa has a destiny, a destiny given to her from God in the form of a Godstone, a blue stone in her stomach, visible through her navel that makes her as a chosen one, one who will do somehing great as the will of God. This, of course, makes her a hot commodity, and only puts a SLIGHT bit of pressure on her.

And then she is kidnapped by a group of kids her own age, who live in the eastern areas of the Joya d’Arena , where war has raged for generations, unknown to the weak king, Alejandro. They hope by bringing God’s chosen to their cause, they will finally be able to defeat the Invierne army that threatens the entire kingdom. Finally, Elisa feels like she has a purpose…and a boy named Humberto, who looks at her like no one else in the world ever has.

The Good or the Bad: 

First, I’m going to start with the bad, because there isn’t a lot. The biggest “issue”, if you will, for this book was the God aspect of it. In a lot of fantasy novels that are written, there is some form of religion. It only makes sense because religion is the way we explain how things happen, how we came about. Its where we get our morals and our “rules”, where we came from. It only makes sense that gods would exist in these alternate universes. However, with Elisa’s Godstone and her destiny from God, and all that, it got a little too religious for me. I’m an atheist and can only handle a little bit of religion and I had a hard time determining if it was the God of a fantasy world or if it was a book with heavy Christian values. I’m not a Christian so heavy Christian themes in a book is hard for me to stomach. Its why I have such a hard time reading the Chronicles of Narnia, but I love Harry Potter.

Moving on though, the rest of the book is absolutely fantastic.

First (you know, besides the first ‘first’ that talked about religion), there’s the character of Elisa herself. She is a wonderfully written character. Tamora Pierce, one of my absolute heroines, says “Elisa is a wonderful, believable hero, the kind that every reader can imagine as herself.” This is a perfect way to describe Elisa. She’s a younger princess, getting married to this extremely handsome king on her sixteenth birthday, and she’s a born Chosen one from God, and she’s fat. She’s insecure in her own body and her own destiny and she’s forced to marry an extremely handsome king, who has no interest in actually recognizing her as his wife. She feels like a child and she feels useless. How many of us have felt that? If you haven’t felt that, you must be a robot.

But of course, Elisa doesn’t always stay this timid and afraid little girl. She becomes an adult, though through trial. She’s kidnapped by people who need her help, because she is the Chosen. And even though she feels completely inept and she has no clue whatsoever what the Godstone and its purpose is for her, she is able to help. And the best part of her stepping up and helping, and gaining the confidence to lead these people, is that it comes from herself. It doesn’t come from her Godstone. The Godstone may have been the reason that she was brought into this but it isn’t what makes her the great leader that she is. It isn’t what gains her the loyalty of those people, it isn’t what causes the friendship she gains in her guard, Hector, the adoration she wins from her new son, Rosario, and the love she gets from her friend, Humberto. That is all 100% Elisa and its fantastic.

There’s the story itself, that captivates me enough to keep reading. You can’t help but want to root on Elisa the entire time. Even though Alejandro is a weak king and he rules his kingdom in an indecisive manner and he’s letting his outer eastern providences die in defense of his whole country, you can’t help but want them all to win. You even can’t help but rooting for him a little bit, as he realizes what he has done wrong and how he tries to fix it. Even though Joya d’Arena is in shambles and its poor and the people are starving and they can barely defend themselves, you want them to win because you want Elisa to win. And Elisa believes in the Joya d’Arena people. You are so excited to watch as she goes from a overweight, shy and unsure princess to a confident and capable ruler.

I don’t want to give away too much of this book, because there is so much to it that makes it an enjoyable book. Its fast paced enough to keep you wanting more and all the characters are believable. Elisa is one of the most believable female characters that I have ever read. Alejandro is a real character in that he represents the weakness of previous rulers, the reality that not all leaders are strong. I love Humberto and Cosme, Elisa’s captors who become her friends, because of their determination to succeed, to defend the place where they love and leave.

And the sequel is only that much better. This is a book that I definitely recommend. Five stars. A round of applause. Two thumbs up. Standing ovation. Rae Carson is a very talented and engaging writer and I can’t wait for more people to pick this book and enjoy it. I hope that this post encourages you all to pick up the book and that it encourages everyone to read the sequel, The Crown of Embers, which is even better than the first. I can’t wait til this fall with the last installment in the series comes out because its sure to be an instant hit, and even more enjoyable than the first two.

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