Early Review: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns # 3
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: Aug 27, 2013
ARC provided by Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books

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.

D.G.’s Rating: 4.5 skulls = A-

I don’t remember the last time I read such a satisfying end to a trilogy. The Bitter Kingdom was full of action, intrigue and surprising developments. It’s definitely the best book in the trilogy and not just because we have Hector’s POV. 🙂

The Bitter Kingdom starts where Crown of Embers left off, with Elisa and her crew undertaking a very dangerous journey to rescue one of her own. I had thought that most of the book was going to deal with that but in truth, that was only one part of the overall plot. As Elisa journeys with her friends and allies, she gets answers to some previous mysteries but new questions emerge: are her accomplishments due to her role as God’s chosen or has it been her all along?

One of the most satisfying parts of the story has been Elisa’s character growth. In the first book, she’s an insecure teenager, in the second book she’s a Queen in the making but in this third one she emerges a woman of strength and character, perfect for her role as a Queen. She’s smart, practical, shrewd and even a bit devious when she must be, with a great understanding of politics and human nature. Every now and then I would utter an Atta Girl!, every time she made a particularly ballsy move.

In previous books, God seemed to be a stronger presence with a definite path for Elisa. But towards the end, there was some murkiness about the issue and even Elisa begins to wonder if God is really that involved in their lives. Whether things she had taken for granted as coming from God (like the warmth she received from her stone) were real or just figments of her imagination. I’m not sure if I liked this switch in the paradigm of the story but it didn’t distract me overmuch.

Having Hector’s POV was marvelous. We got to know a bit more about him, his feelings and his strength of character. I wished we knew more details about how he got such a powerful position at such a young age – I know he was friends with the King but that didn’t seem to be enough somehow. That’s why I’m very excited to read The King’s Guard, a prequel novella with a young Hector as main character.

Overall, a great end to the trilogy. If you read the first book but wasn’t crazy about it, I completely recommend you give the second book a chance. It’s rare when a series get better as it continues but this is definitely the case here. You won’t regret it!

Thanks to Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books for providing a review copy of this book!

Series Reading Order:
1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns
2. The Crown of Embers
3. The Bitter Kingdom

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