Friday, September 14, 2012

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

You might want some spoiler space.

Usually, I don't read reviews of books that aren't out yet, which, I suppose, undermines all of those nice publicity people. I recognize titles, sometimes glance at opinions, and that's it until after I've done my own reading.

I'm going to try very, very hard not to spoil you too much while still telling you what I think about this book.

As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed rereading The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and I was really glad that I took the time to reread it right before reading The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (HarperCollins - Greenwillow). The stories are complex, and there are themes that take more than one book to roll out and, I presume, to resolve. I like this a lot, actually; I know it can be tough to have a theme that needs several books to explore.

If you don't want to know anything about this book, back button now...

Elisa is now known to be Queen of Joya d'Arena; she was the queen, but now everyone knows of her and her adventures in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, knows of her courage and bravery.

Almost immediately, her grasp of the position is shattered by a series of attacks on her and on her city, and amplified by disconcerting power struggles both that remove her from making decisions and cause her to question her own abilities. She's struggling with impostor syndrome, sometimes, and doubts about her gut instincts. Every piece of her existence is open to scrutiny, and in the capital, she has to rule many instead of a few; she has to, or thinks she has to, choose strategies that harm some to spare others. Sometimes, those strategies mean putting herself last. Sometimes, they mean growing up too fast. Sometimes, they mean choosing between what she wants and what the people she loves want. Sometimes, they mean being monstrous.

I like that this second book complicates the characters; even the good guys have their flaws and some short-sighted views--sometimes views they hold of own volition, sometimes views more reflective of their society's standards. And in this volume, layers are peeled back on the villains, slowly, part of an overall theme of awareness: I cannot hold the same views all my life if I'm provided with new information.

I like Elisa as strategist. I love Elisa as strategist. I like the formerly secondary characters coming into sharp relief and altering the landscape we thought we knew. I like how the enemies start to become human, and how Elisa has to confront her own unkindnesses. And I like that, for all that Elisa is close to many people, there are some things she must do alone.

And if I told you more, I'd actually have to present spoilery things. I kind of hate when people give me spoilery things. I am very protective of the times when I can be lost in a book. But I think that if you liked The Girl of Fire and Thorns, you'll be head over heels for The Crown of Embers.

I read an ARC provided by HarperCollins - Greenwillow via the author. I didn't receive any compensation, suggestion, or marketing asks for this or any other review; it accurately reflects my opinion. This blog does not make money from advertising or any other sources.

This book is nominated in the YA SF/F category for the 2012 Cybils.

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