The Bitter Kingdom is written by Rae Carson. It was published in 2013 by Greenwillow. It is the last book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy. I reviewed the first two books here and here. Carson’s website can be found here.
“Elisa is a fugitive.
Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness. Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight.
Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa né Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three loyal companions deep into the enemy’s kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne. Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover in this, her final journey, could change the course of history.
But that is not all. She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for.
Even of those who hate her most.”
What I Liked:
One of the things I like most about this trilogy is the character development. Elisa is an awesome queen in this book. She’s taken everything she’s learned in the first two books and used it to do some really fantastic things in regards to saving everybody. She is not the same girl who started out The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and she is not even the same girl who started out The Crown of Embers. That’s one thing I like about trilogies, the ability to do such long character arcs and development.
The other thing I like about this trilogy is that, for once, it’s not a love at first sight romance. It’s (relatively) slow and, again, built over the trilogy as a whole. I also like the character types that are used in this romance, so that’s another plus.
I wish I had remembered the plot of the trilogy more, because there were some pretty cool revelations that I probably would have reacted to more if I had actually remembered the previous books. In any case, the plot progression was nice.
Haha, Storm and Alodia. That will be an interesting match.
What I Didn’t Like:
I read all three of these books really far apart from each other, so when I read this book I only had a vague recollection of what had happened in the previous. It left me feeling a bit clueless the entire time. One of these days I will have to read them again, back-to-back, so I get the full experience of plot and character development.
Hector was rescued really quickly. I was honestly expecting that part to be a bit more dragged out. Also, don’t ask me why, but it actually kinda bothered me when Elisa discovered that Hector had loved her “before she was anyone.” I think it might be because that’s just a little too perfect of a thing to say. Hector overall is a pretty perfect character, so I think that revelation just made him a bit too unbelievable for a moment.
What the heck is up with fantasy books making up their own special herb contraception? It’s like, “Oh, we can’t have our characters actually wait a few days until they’re married. No, no, they love each other, and when people love each other they immediately jump into bed. Let’s just make up something so that they can have “safe” sex.” And then the special magic herb is inevitably named something incredibly trite like “maidenseed” or “lady’s shroud.” Please. Really, Elisa, you couldn’t have waited one day until your wedding?
Recommended Age Range: 16+
Warnings: Sexual situations, violence, and disturbing images of torture and wounds
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
I look around at my companions. “This might be it. The gate of the enemy. None of you are required to accompany me. It’s your choice.”
Belén shrugs. “It’s a perfect plan.”
“As easy as falling love,” Mara adds.
“Foolproof,” Hector agrees.
I don’t deserve such friends. I blink against the sting of threatening tears and say, “All you Joyans are filthy liars.”
“What is it, Skinny Girl?” Belén asks.
She gives him a shy smile. “I have decided on a name.”
I sit forward. “Oh?”
“My name,” she says with a lift of her chin, “is Red Sparkle Stone.”
No one makes a sound. There is only the popping of the fire, the rush of wind, the pawing of a horse.
Finally, I manage. “Well. That is indeed a strong and…unique name.”
Mula’s—no, Red Sparkle Stone’s—face lights up. “I knew you’d like it! Red is my favorite color. And sparkle stones are strong. The strongest thing there is. I was thinking you should call me Red, the same way Storm’s whole name is too important to say all the time.”
Oh, thank God. “Red it is, then,” I say, and I look around at our companions, daring contradiction. Mara looks stunned. Storm and Waterfall are wholly indifferent. Hector and Belén are trying very hard not to laugh.
The Bitter Kingdom finishes off what turned out to be a wonderful trilogy of character development. Hector and Elisa are really cute (until the end when I was just annoyed) and the romance is nice and slow by YA standards. I had a few problems with it, especially with the resolution, but overall, the trilogy is pretty great.
You can buy this book here: The Bitter Kingdom (Girl of Fire and Thorns)
Coming Up Next: Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach