September 23, 2013

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:04 am by suebe2

The Bitter Kingdom
by Rae Carson
Greenwillow Books

The Bitter Kingdom was one of those books that I just had to finish — yet again, Carson pulled me in a with her gripping plot.  But, NO!   I don’t want to finish.  It’s the third in the trilogy and I adore these characters.

As always, Rae Carson has created a deliciously complicated story.  Delicious, but hard to review because it is in fact that complicated.

Elisa’s kingdom is in turmoil with a usurper on the throne.  Before she returns, she must save Hector, the captain of the guard and her betrothed.  She truly loves him but marriage to Hector will cement the bond between two kingdoms and end the squabbling over who she should marry.

Hector was kidnapped at the end of book 2, The Crown of Embers.  He isn’t an idle captive and he truly believes Elisa will come for him.  But if she does, he also knows she will have a reason in addition to her affection for him.  Unfortunately, he had been kidnapped before she announced their engagement (oops!).  He knows that if he keeps his eyes and ears open he is sure to learn something useful.

Storm still has no magic as they head back into his city and country.  But as a failed Invierno sorcerer, he was exiled to Elisa’s kingdom.  If the returns without his magic, he faces death unless he can serve his father in some vital way.  The Invierno are simply that “practical.”

Mula/Red is a slave girl that Elisa saved from abuse the only way she could, by buying her.  She is half Invierno, something Elisa didn’t even know was possible as she was always told that that Invierno were just that different from people.

In the course of this last book Elisa saves Hector; discovers the big secret the Invierno have been hiding for hundreds of years; learns that they really are not two entirely separate people, and is also forced to realize that she is something more than the magic and the bearer of a Godstone.

As always, Carson writes with subtle humor and creates living, breathing characters who are full of extraordinary contradictions.  These contradictions, of course, make them all the more real and likable, especially Storm who initially seemed cold and haughty.

I really can’t tell you much more about the specifics of this book without giving it all away but fantasy fans will devour it.  There is fantasy, intrigue and a solid dash of romance.  There are also threads that touch on themes in our own lives as we must sort fact from fiction about enemies and threats both distant and closer to home.

I highly recommend this book for teen readers although it will likely appeal more to girls than to boys.

–SueBE

 

May 16, 2013

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:26 am by suebe2

The Crown of Embers
by Rae Carson
AR 5.0

Elisa is a hero.  The young widowed queen led her people to victory vs an army of sorcerers.  Even as fires still smolder in damaged parts of the capital city, her people welcome her parade with cheers and song until  a sorcerer appears and ignites himself amid a crowd.  Terrified citizens flee to the palace only to find themselves locked out.

The Queen and her guards have also been locked out.  Fortunately, there is a secret way into the palace.

Where there is one secret there are bound to be many as Elisa discovers after an assassin attacks her where no one else should have been.  Then she discovers a failed sorcerer living in a hidden village.  And a dinner guest it poisoned at her own table.

Who can she trust?  There is Ximena, the nurse who raised her; Mara the maid who was one of the rebels who helped her win the war; and Hector, the captain of her guard.   There are also the people she shouldn’t trust yet finds herself relying on more and more — Storm, the failed sorcerer; Belen a young rebel who once betrayed her because he thought he did the will of God; and Tristan, the suitor who lied to her to gain her trust.  Indecision and inaction take their toll as Elisa struggles to maintain authority, yet many still believe in her as she learns when Hector, Mara and Ximena commission a special crown, The Crown of Embers, suitable for her and no one else.

When Elisa takes off on a cross country journey, she surprised many with her abilities.  Only the rebels she led against the sorcerers know of her skills and comfort in desert survival.  If only she could being the same determination to her rule within the city.

I can’t say much more about the plot without giving away far too much.  As before, with The Girl of Fire and ThornsCarson has created a deliciously complicated story.  There is romance in abundance as Elisa’s attraction to Hector grows even as she is forced to search out a husband.  

The reading level may be easily within the later elementary school range but the story is young adult as Elisa considers what about herself a man might find appealing as well as her hopes for love and happiness, friendship and companions in general.

Can she be true to herself, to her duty as the bearer of a Godstone and those she would gladly give her life to save?  You’ll have to read the book to see how it all works out.

–SueBE

 

 

January 10, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:44 am by suebe2

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

by Rae Carson
Greenwillow

Elisa hasn’t done anything impressive in her sixteen years.  Sure, she’s a princess but her sister is amazing.  She knows all about the workings of their father’s kingdom, rides horseback and can hold her own in any situation.

Elisa?  She eats.

In fact, that’s what she’s dreaming of doing as she’s fitted into her wedding gown.  She’s nervous about meeting the groom, Alejandro,  King of a neighboring land.  Elisa also wonders why it is so important that she marry right now.  What good could she be in helping the king of a threatened land?

Maybe it has something to do with her Godstone.  The Godstone, lodged in her navel, marks her as chosen by God.  It appeared on her wedding day and it tells one and all that she has been chosen for a great task.

Elisa only hopes that she’ll be up for it.  But until that destiny finds her she takes solace much as she always has — in her books and food.  Before she can make a position for herself in this new court, she is kidnapped and makes a long trek across the desert.  In a small village, she finds a group of desperate people who are sure that this bearer of the Godstone can save them from the war that has already taken so many lives, a war that her husband the kind doesn’t know is already being fought.

This is definitely a girls book, in spite of the battle scenes and fighting.  There is simply too much time spent on emotion and introspection to fully engage most boy readers.

Too bad for them.

Because this was a book I couldn’t put down.  In spite of all of her waffling about, Elisa is a character who pulls on your sympathy.  She takes solace in food.  She’s amazingly insecure.  She knows that most every woman is prettier than she is and that her brains aren’t going to score points for her with people who value pretty over smart.  She knows that life holds great things for her, if only she can figure out what they are.

Sound like anyone you know?  Me too.

If you’ve got a tween or teen who loves fantasy, sword and sorcery or adventure, this book is a must read.  If you love any of these things, take the time to read it yourself.  It is chock full of romance, intrigue and lessons on faith, faith in God and faith in yourself.

Take the time to read it during a few of this winter’s cold, dark nights.

–SueBE

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