Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publishing Date: August 27, 2013
Pages/Format: 433, Hardcover
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The champion must not fear.
The gate of darkness closes.
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 on 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.
Book in One Word: FANTASMICAL.
Leaving off not long after where The Crown of Embers left off--and aye, there be spoilers for that book if you haven't read it--The Bitter Kingdom begins with Elisa off to rescue Hector, who was taken by Franco, Inviernos, and some traitorous men from Brisadulce, thanks to stupid Ximena. (I was so happy when she was dismissed. I do not like her.) But of course, Elisa is not alone; she has the help of her lady-in-waiting and friend Mara, ex-traitor and now trusted and excellent spy Belen, and the dedicated-to-the-queen Invierno/animagus Storm. (And, eventually, a new character--and child!--named Mula, who at first I was like, "This character's going to get in the way, get rid of her," but then I was like, "No, this character is excellent, let nothing happen to her.") Together, they traverse Joya d'Arena--carefully, because Elisa has been betrayed and she needs to stay in hiding--as they make their way to Invierne and try to rescue Hector (spoiler alert: we may get his point of view once or twice or thrice!).
A lot happens in this book. Like, a lot. When I think about it I have to really think about it and make sure that the scene I'm thinking of was actually in this book. I mean, it's this crazy adventure and it's just SO GOOD. I don't really have a complaint (okay, there a lot of typos) (and a few things were a little bit open ended aka like one or two ships in particular) except that it ended. But I could go on forever and ever about how I don't want this series to end so I won't. But this just has so many elements that I love and that pull me in: an excellent--oh, an excellent--romance, twists and turns, fantastic characters, characters in peril, a variety of settings, this and that and everything in between. It makes for one hell of a devourable book that is so hard to put down and that is just SPECTACULAR. I mean, really:
As I already said, the characters in this series are fantastic, and the character growth is insane and off the charts. Elisa has progressed so much throughout these books. She started off as nice and good and totally likable, and has metamorphosed into a total badass who will not take your shit (or you hurting the people she cares about). Don't even get me started on Hector--or, as he's more commonly known, HECTOOOOOR (seriously, that's how everyone says his name I kid you not)--who's gone from a respectable Commander of the Royal Guard to a hardcore protector and lover of Elisa. (SERIOUSLY, THOSE TWO. I SMILED LIKE A FOOL. A LOT.) The best pages were the ones where they were together. They just click so perfectly. Elector, Helisa--whatever. SHIP IT. SO HARD. And then there are secondary characters who stand out whether they're good and bad and I just CAN'T EVEN. (Also, Mara and Belen. Ship it. And Storm needs someone because STORM.) I love strong characters and these are all fantastic.
Like I said, a lot happens in this book. First and foremost, Elisa & Co. are trying to save Hector. But Elisa has a lot on her shoulders, basically the whole--or at least her--world. She obviously loves Hector, and he loves her (seriously, those two) and they have to be together forever or else. On the more serious side (though their relationship and its necessity to exist forever is serious), Joya d'Arena is under siege, thanks to the backstabbing bastards Conde Eduardo and General Luz-Manuel, who don't want Elisa sitting on the throne and want to save the Joyans in their own way. If anyone sees Elisa they're ordered to kill her on sight, so that's not good, and that makes accomplishing things difficult and requires covertness. And then there's the Godstone. Elisa is just starting to learn all its powers and what it can do, and she seeks more answers at the other magic gate thing in Invierne. She also knows that bearers don't tend to live long, so will she die? And what is her purpose as the bearer? What can--and will--she do? And can Queen Elisa save all of Joya d'Arena and bring peace (and live happily ever after with Hector please please pleeeaaassseee)?
Really, this review could be five million times more flaily. I LOVE THIS BOOK. One of the nice things about this series is that so many people said it was so good and they were so right. (You know a book is really good when you get to a point in your library copy, discover a page was ripped out, and absolutely freak out.) If you haven't read these books then I honestly don't know what you're waiting for. The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy has everything and is everything. It's an excellent fantasy with a refreshing setting and compelling characters and a romance to root for. And as far as finales go, The Bitter Kingdom is a damn good one, but my gosh, I want more. (And that ending, oh, that ending.) You bet your ass I'll be reading all the Rae Carson books. The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy is definitely a favorite, and one I will treasure. Gosh, why don't I own these books? So good. So. Damn. Good.
Did I like it? YES.
Did I love it? YES.
Would I reread it? YES.
Would I purchase it? I don't have this on my shelves why don't I have this on my shelves?
Who would I recommend it to? Everyone. Everyone. Everyone.