Monday, September 17, 2012

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Title: The Crown of Embers
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Pages: 410 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC received via a swap with a friend
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | book trailer | author website

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2)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.


I can still sum up exactly how I felt about The Girl of Fire and Thorns easily: a great idea with a fantastic scene or two, but its plotting and forehadowing needed vast improvements. The Crown of Embers bore the weight of all my hopes for improvement but unfortunately, there is no growth. This is at the exact same level of quality as book one. I'm a genuine fan, but it's frustrating to have to deal with so much bad to get so much good.

Elisa continues to grow as a person and grow into her role as a queen. It forces her to do some pretty terrible things and she still gets tricked every now and then, but she's still growing and figuring out who she is. Some of her mistakes are a little more irritating--like wishing only beauty, charm, and a slender body on a baby; for someone who used to be overweight and put more value on intelligence, she's suddenly quite shallow--but I can deal with it. Her relationship with Hector builds well, though their dramatics toward the end grow tiring very quickly.

I got annoyed for a bit because of everyone challenging Elisa's rule due to her gender and saying she had to marry ASAP, but thankfully, Elisa is pissed off by it too and it's never justified. Still, I am so tired of seeing this in fantasy novels. Why have I read only a single fantasy novel where no one has any problem with a queen ruling on her own? That's just sad. We need more!

Both my main problems with this novel are issues that carried over from the first book: lacking plotting and blatant foreshadowing.

At some points, turning the pages came natural to me and they practically flew by; other times, fifty pages lay ahead of me and such a small number of pages was such a grand struggle to get through. The first half of the novel completely failed to grab me, though the climax and the hurricane scene (the hands-down best scene of the entire novel) were perfectly written. There are no ways to make them better than they already are. The problem is simply that the court intrigue that drives the first half of the novel simply doesn't interest me, especially because it's so obvious what is going on. Speaking of which...

Oh, the foreshadowing: it's subtle like a hammer to your bare feet. In the very first chapters of the novel, Franco's name is connected to no less than two serious incidents and he is blatantly suspicious, but Elisa never really investigates him, nor does she realize what the general and the conde are planning. Both of those details are so screamingly obvious that I was screaming at the book/Elisa to wake up and look at what's right in front of her face. I think this is supposed to be an attempt at Checkhov's Gun, but it fails badly.

There's also a moment toward the end that's supposed to be tense. Elisa has to sacrifice a character to get what she needs, but readers haven't even gotten to know that character well enough to care about him and give his sacrifice any weight. Then she doesn't have to sacrifice him after all and if it had weight before, it certainly doesn't now. "Frustrating" is the word of this book.

I like this series. I do. Putting words to the good of this novel is a much harder than detailing the flaws, sadly. It's one of those books. I'm looking forward to the release of The Bitter Kingdom next year and a little sad about the series coming to an end (though Carson has signed a deal to write a new historical fantasy trilogy once the Fire and Thorns trilogy is done; I'll probably be reading that too). But really, if the plotting does not get better and the foreshadowing does not become less obvious, I may just shove my head through a wall.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Crewel by Gennifer Albin