Review: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Series: Fire and Thorns #3

the bitter kingdom -rae carsonThe champion must not waver.
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.


3.5 Drink Me Potions

The Bitter Kingdom marked the end of The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. It was another intriguing adventure, this time through the lands of the Invierno. With a few surprises and a conclusion to Elisa’s duty as the bearer of the Godstone that wasn’t necessarily predictable, this novel was fun while it lasted.

The story picks up right where its predecessor left off. Chasing after Hector into the unknown territory, Elisa and her band of unique friends ran into the kind of problems you’ve come to expect from Rae Carson’s writing. While he was kidnapped, our loveable Lord Commander Hector had his own short, oh so short, POV chapters. They detailed his journey with his kidnappers through his eyes that really gave this book a special taste as it was always just Elisa’s voice.

The world building continues in this book. I thought there was a lull in this aspect after the first book, what with the uniqueness of Elisa’s role in this world as a living Godstone bearer. However, now that they’re walking right into enemy territory for the first time, Carson continues to detail how these people live.

In short, these are the few things that I absolutely enjoyed in this book.

1) The wrap-up conclusion with the “act of service” we – or at least I – have been wondering about since the beginning that Elisa had to complete as a Godstone bearer.
It was such a central aspect throughout this trilogy, her being blessed with this unknown task willed by God, that answering it almost seemed like a letdown. BUT, in a sense, I liked how it was written at the same time. It wasn’t what I expected, or even remotely guessed, but like all bearers before her, this act may not directly benefit Elisa and her friends. With that sense of mystery to it, I’d say there was no better way of putting it out there.

2) The continual growth in Elisa.
She is nothing like she was when leaving her home kingdom of Orovalle. No longer timid, she was a strong heroine that would stop at nothing from protecting her loved ones and ensuring peace for the kingdom that she now ruled. But most importantly of all, she learned to love herself for who she was. She may never be as skinny or elegant as her sister, but she had traits no one else could even live up to. That kind of message in her continuous growth made her relateable and a great narrative voice to being reading all the way to this end.

3) Last, but definitely NOT least, Hector.
‘Cause, who can resist such a sweet and protective character like him? His love for her wasn’t because she was a queen now or that she successfully conquered their enemies once before. He loved her even before, and his love didn’t have to be returned for it to be there all the same. I had wished there were chapters with his POV, but what was there was still a pleasant surprise. Their sweet romance was absolutely my favourite thing to read.

These were definitely highlights, but of course, there were setbacks. For all the adventures, it still felt like it lacked something….epic. The big fight with all of Elisa’s enemies just seemed to happen too quickly. It barely took up many chapters. A lot of what goes on in those pages went into their treacherous travelling plans. I may just have high expectations when it comes to fantasy adventures, but overall, it didn’t have my heart pounding till the very last minute to find out what would happen to everyone I cared for. That is what separates the good from the great fantasy novels. And this just didn’t quite make the cut for greatness.

Overall Recommendation:
The Bitter Kingdom continued with the adventures of queen and sorcerer Elisa. As the last of the trilogy, it was able to tie up loose ends nicely, but epic it was not. The big and explosive action and adventure parts of the book didn’t take up much of it, whereas mundane things like travelling dangers seemed to have too much page space. With the occasional twist and surprise ending, Rae Carson’s finale was fun in the moment and true to her previous writings, albeit a bit lackluster and forgettable.

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