Friday, 18 January 2013
#CBR5 Book 6. "Crown of Embers" by Rae Carson
Rating: 3.5 stars
This book is the second book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy. While this review is unlikely to contain big spoilers for the previous book in the series, this book really doesn't work well on its own, and it would be better if you started at the beginning with The Girl of Fire and Thorns.
Now the widowed queen of a constantly besieged country, Elisa is doing her best to be a better ruler than her weak and cowardly former husband, but as she's still only seventeen, and not exactly experienced as a ruler, she's not having an easy job of it. The only people she can trust implicitly are her closest servants and Hector, the head of her Royal guard.
The power hungry sorcerer priests from the neighbouring country are demanding that she surrender herself to them as a willing sacrifice, or they will continue to threaten and attack her people. The political situation in her country is fraught and vulnerable with external threats and internal strife. Her Royal Council are demanding that she find a husband as quickly as possible, to prevent a possible Civil War. Too bad that the only man she really likes is Hector, who is sworn to guard her with his own life, and her older sister (the Crown Princess of another neighbouring country) is approaching for a possible marriage alliance.
After being attacked and nearly killed in her own palace, it's clear that the sorcerer priests are not Elisa's only worry. She needs to learn to control the power of the God-stone in her belly, and try to decipher the many prophecies to discover what great destiny lies in store for her. She discovers that she needs to go on a dangerous quest to the southern islands of her realm, where a great power will allegedly be available for the Chosen One who can survive the challenges of getting there.
Can she fool her Royal Council for long enough to get away, dodge the assassins out to kill her, postpone making any decisions about marriage treaties for herself or Hector, and succeed in finding the legendary zafira, which will give her power enough to take on an army of sorcerers?
The Elisa of this book is a year older, rather a lot more experienced in guerrilla warfare and somewhat wiser. She is still woefully ill-equipped to rule an entire country, especially one as politically unstable as the one she has found herself the Queen of. There are all manner of people trying to kill her, some of them are even courtiers at her own Court, possibly even members of her Royal Council, plotting to usurp her. She desperately wants to do a good job, but her self-doubt and insecurities cause her to keep making little mistakes that escalate into minor disasters.
She is forced to admit that she's in love with the head of her Royal Guard, despite the fact that an alliance between them would be political suicide. She needs to gain strength and consolidate her power, and has no choice but to set off on a dangerous journey with mostly her few loyal retainers as company. The situation Elisa is in is pretty depressing, all the way through the book, but she manages surprisingly well, all things considered. Her close friendship with her maid Mara is lovely, and the supporting cast are still very good and interestingly morally complex.
Elisa continues to be a character I enjoy reading about, and she learns a lot over the course of this book. The book ends on rather a dramatic cliffhanger, and I can't wait to see what's in store for her and her friends in the (hopefully) final book of this series.