Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Series: Fire and Thorns #2
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.
Elisa is a hero.
She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.
Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.
To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trail of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.
If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
Once again in book two I find myself simultaneously adoring and being frustrated with Elisa. (But not in a bad way!) She spent her time in the first installment of the series proving that she can be a leader and get things accomplished, but in this second installment she is unsure of herself in her new queenly role. She knows that she needs to be a strong and decisive queen but she is so afraid of making the wrong decisions that she doesn't really make that many decisions at all and allows for a great deal of outside influence from those around her. But, as in the first book, she learns and grows and she does so with grace. And that growth of character is part of what I adore about her. And by the end, Elisa is much less afraid to step up and make her own decisions.
Hector was my favorite character in the first book, despite his not having as prominent a role in that part of Elisa's story, because he was one of the few who were completely sincere from the beginning. But by the end of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I was certain that Hector would play an incredibly important part. And I'm so happy to say that he definitely does. I love, love, love the relationship development of Elisa and Hector.
The plot moves steadily. All of the scenes are working to develop characters or advance the plot, so there are no lulls. I breezed through the pages and kept wanting more, more, more. The Crown of Embers has a little bit of everything: mysterious personal agendas, assassination attempts, threats, executions, suitors, smugglers, spies, secrets, seafaring adventure, crazy old guy living in isolation in a hole in the ground. There are people who work to influence Elisa's decisions, for various reasons. They're able to do this a lot of the time because of Elisa's tendency to second guess herself or to look to others to make the tough choices. Throughout the story, Elisa must learn to trust herself more than she trusts others. I do not think that she has fully met her potential quite yet, but she's definitely well on her way.
And the ending! What! I guess some may consider it cliffhanger-ish. But I don't, and the reason for that is because the reader is left with plenty enough information to see exactly where this is going. And I love it. Because it gives Elisa the push that she needs, and I know that the third book is going to be Elisa, pissed off and determined, wreaking havoc, kicking butt, meaning business. And I want that part of the story to be in my hands. I can't freaking wait. Seriously. It might kill me. I might die.