THE CROWN OF EMBERS
(Fire and Thorns #2)
Available September 18th
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Amazon)
Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying,
sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But
Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from
both foreign realms and within her own court. And her destiny as the
chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.
To conquer the power she
bears once and for all, Elisa must follow the trail of
long-forgotten--and forbidden--clues from the deep, undiscovered
catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a
one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who--despite everything--she is
falling in love with.
If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
Returning us to a high fantasy world where a young woman struggles to discover who she is as a person, as a ruler, and as a chosen servant of God, The Crown of Embers does not leisurely reintroduce us to characters and story, instead it thrusts us right into the middle of action and political intrigue from chapter one. While we may stumble in the first few pages, our memories straining to recall the finer details of The Girl and Fire and Thorns, we quickly realize those details aren’t entirely necessary to guarantee our involvement in this second installment, and we easily slip into our roles as an eager and invested audience, reading raptly as Elisa’s world shifts on its axis.
Elisa is the young woman we remember from the very end of book one, a far cry from the girl overly fixated on weight and appearance she was in the beginning, having accepted her role as queen and diving headfirst into the political pit of vipers surrounding her. She’s been royalty all her life, but never before has the burden of decision-making been placed solely on her shoulders, and we sit back and smile proudly as she navigates dangerous waters, managing to avoid most of the resulting spray with a grace and aplomb she did not possess previously. She still reveals her young age on occasion, but the few times her spine of steel begins to bend only earns her more of our respect as she proves herself to be as much human as she is monarch.
The first book was predominantly a fantasy adventure, a romance present but so far in the background as to be almost unnoticeable, however in this second leg of Elisa’s journey, the romance with the Lord-Commander of the Royal Guard is far more prominent, the beautiful tension thrumming between proving to be one of the main elements that captivates us. Theirs is a relationship that builds so very slowly, a foundation of friendship quietly, and sometimes painfully, evolving into a fierce love that has us equal parts dreading and highly anticipating each chapter, wondering if their respective roles and the expectations they so stoically bear will prove too great an obstacle for them to overcome. Though Elisa is in a position of power over Hector, their connection never feels skewed or off-balance, rather both have a mutual respect for the other and prove again and again how willing they are to give their lives for the person they love.
Overall, The Crown of Embers is a sequel that gets off to a strong start and never relents, testing Elisa and company mentally and physically while emotionally challenging us as readers. Despite the seriousness of Elisa’s predicament as she desperately tries to rebuild her war-ravaged city even as the threat of battle hovers on her horizon, her interactions with Hector are often playful and rich with humor, bringing a smile to our faces even as we know they will be short lived. While we’re not left with a cliffhanger per se, events are definitely left unresolved, the next path laid out before us and our goals crystal clear as we look forward to seeing how our young queen will respond to the gauntlet thrown down by her enemies.