Monday, November 11, 2013

The Bitter Kingdom, Rae Carson

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, #3)We run. My heels crunch sandy shale as my legs pound a steady rhythm. With every fourth step, I suck a lungful of dry air. My chest burns, my thighs ache, and the little toe of my left foot stings with the agony of a ripped blister.

"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."

I don't love this trilogy nearly as much as many other people, but I still really enjoyed the final book in the series, which has many great elements and is really good fantasy. However, the first book still remains my favorite in terms of how absorbing it was and how it set the foundation for the following books to build upon. Still, the following books are very interesting in terms of their portrayal of relationships and the complex politics of a complex world, a feat which I certainly applaud Rae Carson for. Elisa's battling land is portrayed very well, and it's well rounded. In terms of the whole trilogy, there are sections of whirlwind action and sections that are more introspective and thoughtful. Overall though, this series is more of a fast-paced, action-oriented read. It's fairly mindless for the most part, at least in my opinion (I know others would disagree). Still, Elisa's growth is amazing to read about, how she gains confidence (and loses weight) and must hone her decision making skills.

About The Bitter Kingdom specifically: it really wrapped up the trilogy nicely, and I'm glad that I finally got a copy. Certain sections of it were perhaps a bit slow, but Elisa and company are embarking on an epic journey to rescue Hector and (presumably) save the world while they're at it. I really love all the supporting characters, especially Storm, who's quite interesting. There's also a new character: Mula, a slave girl who Elisa rescues, and I loved her too.Of course, Elisa is the best; she's still somewhat unsure of herself, but really brave and fiercely defensive of those she cares about. And Hector is awesome. They have a really good relationship of equality; he doesn't want to do everything for her and he's not too overprotective. In The Bitter Kingdom, some of the chapters are from his point of view, which was a nice touch. Also, I love how there isn't a love triangle, and that Carson points out that your first love (in this case, Humberto from the first book) isn't always who you're meant to be with. I was rather shocked when he was killed, but eventually realized it was a good move on Rae Carson's part, and an important aspect of Elisa's character development.

The series is of course narrated in first person present tense, but although that's typical YA, it actually works pretty well, as it makes the characters' experiences much more immediate. There are certainly some great evocations of the desert that Elisa and her friends much travel through, and eventually, the bitter cold of the north (Bitter Kingdom, you see? Yes). The cover also gorgeously conveys the freezing, killing nature of the place where Inviernos live. It's also interesting because Elisa's Godstone turns icy cold when there's mortal danger around.

There was a lot of violence in The Bitter Kingdom, and that made me uneasy. Several times, Elisa has to kill possibly innocent people simply because they're inconvenient. If I recall correctly, something similar to this happened in Crown of Embers, and I didn't like it there either. Defense is one thing, but actually killing people in cold blood is another, and that's one element of the series that I really dislike; it also makes me dislike the characters more.

Still, that's a fairly minor criticism, and overall I really like this trilogy, and am sad that it's over despite Rae Carson's excellent concluding book. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next, and I would definitely recommend this one to those who have read and enjoyed the first two books.

433 pages.

Rating: ****

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