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Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson

The epic conclusion to Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion--a champion to those who have hated her most.

Released: August 27th 2013              Pages: 448
Publisher: Greenwillow Books         Source: Library
This book lacked a certain something that would have made it awesome.  The first two books had that something, which was what made me fall in love with this series originally.  While The Bitter Kingdom is still good, it just didn't have the same effect on me that the first two books did.

I'll start with what I liked.  Elisa has always been a struggling point, for me, in this series, but she's finally growing up.  She never crossed that line of characters I like vs. characters I love as if they were real people, but I was rooting for her, even if I never loved her.  Still, as the series has progressed, she's become a more solid character, and become more mature.  She has some awesome moments like this:

“You look beautiful,” Alodia says.
I startle at the compliment. Then I smile. “I’m beautiful to the one person who matters.”
She nods. “Hector’s mouth will drop open when he sees you.”
“I hope so. But I meant me. I’m beautiful to me.”

Thank you.  It's about time someone said this in a YA book.  A strong female character does not have to be able to beat everyone in a five-mile radius in hand-to-hand combat in order to be strong.  Strength, in this sense, is not a physical thing, but more a strength of character, values, and self-esteem.  And, at moments like the quote above, Elisa embodied that strength.

Another highlight, for me, was the side characters.  Especially Storm, but also Mara and some others.  Storm was complex and felt real.  Mara did, to a lesser extent.  I never got that sense with Hector. 

And while we're on the subject of Hector...his point of view chapters disoriented me every time they came around.  I realize that they said "Hector" quite clearly at the beginning of every chapter.  Still, if I failed to notice this (which I did, on more than one occasion), they were confusing.  There was no distinction between Elisa's narration and Hector, despite the fact that they were both written in first person.  When there are two different first person narrators in a novel, I should be able to tell who is who without looking at chapter headings.  There needs to be a different voice for each character, and The Bitter Kingdom just didn't accomplish that.

My other major problem is that the climax and ending was underwhelming.  I remember reading the climax of The Crown of Embersat that moment, you couldn't have pulled me away from the final pages of that book unless the house was on fire or OneRepublic was outside randomly performing on the street where I live.  I was emotionally invested, and I couldn't stop reading.  The Bitter Kingdom did not give me the same experience.  I could have stood up and walked away in the middle of the climax, and not have had single problem doing so.  I felt like the stakes were lower, somehow: Elisa didn't seem as affected.  It was all over so fast, and it felt rushed. 

Still, though, I enjoyed this, for the most part.  It wasn't as good as the first two books, and it was disappointing, as finales go.  Even so, I liked it well enough to give it four stars.  My problems with this book aren't as much with this book itself; it's that I know how other books in this series have made me feel and how much I enjoyed them, and I was disappointed to not get that from this book.  If you liked the first two books, it's still worth a read.   

Similar Books: It features a main character who is a queen (or other royalty) like The Demon KingBitterblueor Falling Kingdoms.  It has elements of magic like in Shadow and Bone and Grave Mercy.  It also reminds me of Vessel.
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