View from the window seat:
In the much anticipated sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa is hailed a hero of Joya d’Arena for winning a war against the dreaded Inviernos and their animagi. Being a hero doesn’t mean life is perfect for Elisa; unknown enemies seek to undermine her rule and the animagi call for her to be a willing sacrifice. To become a stronger queen, Elisa sets off on a search for the source of her Godstone’s power. Aided by her friends and allies, Elisa encounters dangerous tests, assassins, and romance on her quest to save her kingdom.
Elisa grows even more in this installment of her story. She may be a queen, but she’s also just seventeen and has a lot to learn about ruling, as she discovers when her own Quorum tries to undermine her authority by passing measures she doesn’t want and attempting to force her into a marriage not of her choosing. I felt her weakness as a queen was natural; she was an incredible leader to the rebels (now the seceded nation of Basajuan), but she allows her fears and insecurities get in the way of her natural strength in leadership. Her insecurities make her such an empathetic character. We’ve all worried about letting down the people we care about. Elisa has the weight of an entire nation (one she has grown to love) on her shoulders. If she chooses wrong, lives are put in danger.
The cast of characters grows as well. We are introduced to new characters and revisit old ones, all with their own motives and desires. My favorite new character is Storm, a harsh, selfish man who wants to live at any cost. His arc gives a new view into the nation of Invierne, which has been portrayed so far as merely an evil enemy. Storm brings complexity to the Inviernos.
I enjoyed the romance in this book much more than in the first. With Humberto, Elisa was experiencing love for the first time. It was quick and tragic, leaving her scarred. In this book, she slowly learns to love again, giving her heart to someone she both trusts and respects. This kind of slow-building love is my favorite kind of romance.
The Crown of Embers takes Elisa’s story to the next level with greater emotional growth and a greater love story.
Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.