Review: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom
by Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #3
Publication date: 27 August 2013
Greenwillow Books, Hardcover, 433 pages
Source: Library

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The 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.

Rating: ★★★

Where do I begin? Elisa’s journey in The Bitter Kingdom was by far the best and most interesting in the trilogy but as a conclusion, I felt it was completely anticlimactic. This book had high highs yet extremely low lows and honestly, I had a really hard time rating it. Was this a good read? Yes, most definitely. But was it satisfying? Far from it.

The Bitter Kingdom starts straight from the middle of Elisa, Belén, Myra and Storm’s journey to rescue Hector, who had been taken by Inviernos at the end of The Crown of Embers. I have to admit, I’m overjoyed a map was included in this book, otherwise, the geographical location of Elisa and her constantly traveling entourage would’ve been a complete mess. I do wish they included that map in the first 2 books though.

Despite the secrets (regarding the world’s history, Godstone and feud between Inviernos and Joyans) being revealed in almost every chapter, said secrets still failed to reveal as much as I’d like about the world in this trilogy. Carson seemed to only have answered the most demanding questions surrounding Elisa and her story, which was good, but it felt like she didn’t put much effort into making this novel something more than simply good.

However, there are still aspects of The Bitter Kingdom that I loved, such as Elisa’s humongous growth in character. I’m guessing the lacking wording-building and ability to engage readers (or maybe just me) in the story could be due to the amount of work put into Elisa’s character development. She grows more and more with each passing book, which was definitely a joy to read about. But I found the jadedness Elisa adopted in this book a tad overdone. It was like she confused wisdom with world-weariness and that was somewhat annoying.

On the other hand, I did like how Carson presented Elisa’s frustration at being kept in the dark about many things for so long without making her sound like a whiny young queen irritated at not being taken seriously by others. Even if she probably did use to think like an immature child and might always crave the approval of her sister, Elisa’s reasons for being frustrated clearly changed from those of a kid to that of a great ruler.

The romance in The Bitter Kingdom was relatively meh as compared to that of the previous book. Maybe because Elisa and Hector have finally settled most of their relationship issues but if you expect to swoon a lot while reading this, you might be disappointed.

All in all, I do think The Bitter Kingdom was an entertaining read but far from a favorite of mine. The Fire and Thorns trilogy as a whole was unfortunately not as amazing as I’d hoped even though it’s not downright bad. It simply was… meh. Quite unmemorable, in my opinion. Would I recommend this? I’m not sure as I usually only recommend books I would gush crazily about and this just isn’t one of them. Fantasy lovers, there are definitely much better books in this genre out there but if you’re dead set on reading this trilogy, it won’t hurt either.



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