I defeated the sorcerous army of Inviernos.
I kept my people safe.
But I'm the least safe of them all.
Enemies are everywhere.
Spies from Invierne posing as my people.
Traitors within my own court, who want my throne.
I must fight them off.
I must learn to harness the power of the Godstone.
I must continue with my destiny.
God has chosen me.
I am his champion.
And I will not waver.
I am the queen of Joya d'Arena.
And my name is Eliza.
Hello! I am once again Eliza from The Girl of Fire and Thorns series!
Book: The Crown of Embers
Author: Rae Carson
Series: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Book Standing: Book 2
Setting: Joya d'Arena, the sea, and a relatively mysterious island
POV: first person, by Eliza
Genre: YA fantasy
Reading: first time
Favorite part: there are way too many good parts.
Rating: 5 stars
Wow. I must say, I was originally skeptical of how much Eliza could grow more in this book. I mean, she accomplished a pretty remarkable feat in the last book, so the question was: how was she going to top that one?
The answer to that fantastic question: the true makings of a queen. She's a queen, and we finally get to see how there are different types of queens. Eliza begins off as being a good queen, but she ultimately evolves into a strong queen. And there's a huge difference between those two. Sure, being a good queen means pleasing her people, but being a strong queen means that she will make the right yet hard calls, and ultimately lead her nation to both victory and prosperity.
I also loved the further exploration of this world. In the last book, Eliza ventured out into the desert. In this book, we find ourselves at the complete opposite: the ocean. It's really nice to see the author's rich descriptions of both these geological places. Brings diversity to the setting, rather than just always exploring the same place over and over again.
We obviously see new and familiar faces again, whether we want to or not. Enemies emerge, spies are found, and loyalties are questioned. In the situation Eliza finds herself in, trust is essential. We already know a few of the people she trusts wholeheartedly, but that number is small. I'm happy to see that it grows in this book.
I also want to address a few perks of being both a well-known hero and a queen: a) not being helpless. Far from it. Eliza is in no way cowering with her people. No, she's right there, in the front lines, doing what she can. She knows when she's being manipulated, knows when it's time to start excluding certain people from specific plans, knows when to play the strong and unwavering role of the queen. She has the mind of a warrior, of a champion. And that makes one brilliant queen. b) A Royal Guard. That's awesome. As queen, Eliza has her own personal guard, composed of roughly thirty-two people (technically, it should be bigger, but hey, that's way more than I have), all hand-picked by the Lord-Commander Hector, and sworn to loyalty. That is impressive. Especially since Eliza doesn't really need them, as she's perfectly capable of handling herself. They're all practically gone from the picture (as in not with her! They're not dead!) when Eliza sets off on her journey. See? She doesn't need their protection. c) wisdom, knowledge, and power. Wisdom, because Eliza knows things from experience. Knowledge, because she is God's chosen one, and only she can lead herself to her destiny, and ultimately the fall of Invierne. And power, because, well, she bears the mark of God. And she's killed people with it, too. She's not to be messed with.
I know a lot of books where becoming the queen is the ultimate goal or reward for the characters, and it's how a few series end. However, as Eliza became queen relatively early on, we get to see that being the queen isn't always a good thing. Suddenly, she's put right into the spotlight, where she's being monitored carefully and watched by everyone. The restrictions that are on Eliza are extremely frustrating as a reader. The entire time, I wanted to slap a few of her subjects and tell them to just let Eliza do it herself. But being queen means that she orders people to do it, not doing it herself. And even then, it doesn't always work out. There's the whole matter of gaining approval from the Quorum lords, meaning that if Eliza must go with the overall decision of the counsel. She can't break it, because by doing so, she would be going against everything that she, as a ruler, stands for. See the predicament? Things are much easier when Eliza is able to get away, when she's able to respond to things freely.
Eliza's growth as a queen is truly remarkable and admirable. As one of my favorite quotes go, "Whoever said being a queen was easy clearly had no idea what they were talking about." Though I must say, a mighty fine queen Eliza does grow into. I would willingly pledge myself to her service, if her Majesty would have me. ;)