Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

In the final book of The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, Elisa and her friends chase after the kidnapped Hector.  They are short on time.  The traitor Conde Eduardo has seized Elisa's throne and the country is moving toward civil war.  Elisa must find Hector and broker a peace deal with the Inviernos who want her people dead, or it will mean the end of the entire kingdom.

I have loved this entire series and I loved this one too.  Perfect end to the trilogy.  It stayed true to everything that came before it.  All the characters, main and minor, continued to grow and find themselves, and how everything came together at the end was perfect.  Things did get a little draggy in the middle where we're journeying through underground tunnels and not a whole lot is happening.  But that is a small complainant.  Overall, I loved it.

Rae Carson does great with romantic relationships.  I think after Po and Katsa from Graceling, Elisa and Hector is one of the better relationships I've read in recent YA.  First there is the fact that Hector is not Elisa's first love.  In the first book of the series, Elisa was in love with someone else, and he was killed.  Elisa mourned him and misses him.  And she fell in love with someone else.  Someone who was first her friend and then became something more.  Someone who respects her in every way.  For her power, for her strength, for her cunning and ability to plan and strategies, as well as seeing her as beautiful.

Elisa didn't fall apart at the death of her first love.  She didn't kill herself or swear never to love another.  Her emotions and grieving were realistic and true, and when she was ready she saw someone she loved right in front of her.  How often do we get to see that in YA?  Our main female character not marrying her first love?  The one she was meant to be with?  Rather realizing that her life holds more than one true love.  And that that can be OK, even wonderful.

Hector at first wrestles with the idea of marrying Elisa.  He will never have as much power or influence as his wife.  Is he a strong enough person to do that?

Their relationship does end in a traditional way, in marriage, unlike Po and Katsa, but in this story marriage made sense, where it wouldn't have in Graceling.  Elisa married Hector not only for love, but for political reasons as well.  Elisa cares for her kingdom first.  She wouldn't have married Hector if it hadn't been the right move for her kingdom, as much as they loved each other.  Elisa would not have allowed her personal feelings to jeopardize what her people needed.  She never did.

Some small spoilers

The religious aspect continued to evolve throughout the final book.  In the previous book, Elisa realized that her idea of God might not be quite what she was raised to believe. Elisa continues to learn about the meaning and full ability of her Godstone.  She even fulfills her service, the service her Godstone meant for her.  And it is not at all what she thought.  That challenges everything know about the Godstones as well.

At the very end, Elisa once again takes the future into her own hands.  She will not let the next bearer of the Godstone be lost and confused, with the truth purposely hidden from him or her.  Elisa will write down everything she know, and spend her life searching for more answers which will be past down.  And no doubt she will do it all.  Elisa gets things done.

The Bitter Kingdom comes out August 27, 2013.

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