Monday, October 15, 2012

The Crown of Embers/Rae Carson

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (Girl of Fire and Thorns book 2); fantasy, young adult; 416 pages

Elisa is a war hero, beloved by her people; she's also the bearer of the legendary Godstone, which means she's destined for even more greatness than she has already achieved.  But now she finds herself the queen of a country that's been economically devastated, and she's learning that being a good ruler is much, much different from being the leader of a ragtag group of rebels.  She may even face a new set of rebels within her own capital city.  Worse, religious fanatics from the north, supposedly defeated a year ago, have returned, demanding Elisa as a sacrifice for their god.  Are they behind the recent attempts on Elisa's life?  Or could it be someone within her own court? 

This book is every bit as wonderful as its predecessor!  Elisa is a strong, smart heroine without being a sword-wielding warrior woman (a refreshing change, I have to admit).  She's a brilliant strategist, and has the foundations of a good ruler (including genuine caring for the welfare of her people), but with her own Quorum fighting her at every step, there's only so much she can do.  Now her council of advisers demands that she marry and produce an heir, and Elisa feels as trapped as she was before she escaped to the desert.  The call to marry is especially difficult, as Elisa has been fighting her attraction to Hector, the commander of her personal guard.

Elisa does a lot of growing up in this book.  She matured a lot in the last book, too, but here she's dealing with the responsibilities of queenship, including the thought that she might have to put the welfare of the country before her own.  Faith continues to play a large role in Elisa's life (which makes sense, since her Godstone gives her a tangible, physical response whenever she prays, to let her know that she's been heard).  While I'm not personally a religious person, I like Elisa's brand of faith:  trusting and humble, but also strong and unshakeable, without being preachy or judgmental.

Like many middle books, this one sets up a lot of things for the third book, and ends on a major cliffhanger.  Now comes the hard part:  waiting until next fall for the conclusion!  Recommended for fans of Kristen Cashore, Robin McKinley's Damar novels, and Tamora Pierce. 

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