Review of THE CROWN OF EMBERS by RAE CARSON
(second in the FIRE AND THORNS trilogy, review based on an advance reading copy)
If you haven’t read THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, the first in this trilogy, don’t read this review as it contains some major spoilers about the first book.
As with book one, my favorite aspect of THE CROWN OF EMBERS has to be its unpredictability. Carson resists formulas, except in the most skeletal sense. I also continued loving the relationship between Elisa and the little prince Rosario, especially now that they’ve both lost important people and must turn to each other for comfort.
From the first chapter, Elisa’s self-esteem takes a few steps backwards. It’s hardly unrealistic with all the royal responsibility crushing down on her, but it can be frustrating when a character accomplishes something at the end of one book and then that accomplishment is somewhat rescinded at the start of the next one. I only hope she maintains the confidence she discovers by the end of THE CROWN OF EMBERS in the third and final book.
To be fair on Elisa, though, everyone seems to have ridiculously high expectations! When you know what she managed to do at the end of book one, you think, “Shouldn’t that be enough???” Except now everyone expects yet another miracle. I certainly wouldn’t want to trade places with her.
The only thing I struggled with so far in this trilogy is the romance plot threads. Here comes the big spoiler from book one: it left me baffled and unsatisfied when Carson killed off both Elisa’s love interests in THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. I would have much preferred to see those complex relationships develop and see her make a choice rather than let fate decide for her. Also, the only element I found predictable has to do with romance: in book one I called who Elisa would eventually fall for in book two, which 1. Made those first two romances feel more like filler while the author builds this particular relationship and 2. Left me impatient as I waited for characters to admit feelings that felt obvious to me.
After the high-stakes ending of THE CROWN OF EMBERS, I can’t wait to start the final book and discover what tricks Elisa still has up her sleeve.