Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy. Quoted from Goodreads
So, so, so, so, good! I'm always a little bit afraid to read the second book in a series because you never know how it will turn out. There are some series that keep getting better, while others suffer from major sophomore slump. I won't name any names, but too often the second book is more filler between the first and third with little substance and less plot. Not so with The Crown of Embers. It absolutely lived up to Girl of Fire and Thorn, possibly even surpassing it.
One of the things I loved best in the first book is Eliza's transformation from sad and pitiful to someone strong and daring. Honestly, I thought, how much more can she grow? But she absolutely did. Her transformation may not have been quite as drastic as in the first book, but she kept learning throughout the story, becoming more and more the person she is supposed to be. I love how honest and realistic she is as a character. It's impossible not to cheer her on.
This book starts with a bang and goes up from there. It honestly grabbed my attention immediately and never let me escape. I love the mix of political intrigue, action, and subterfuge as Eliza struggles to maintain her kingdom. She won the battle, but her problems keep on coming both from outside and inside her own realm. Then there's her control of the Godstone. While she is learning, there is so much she still doesn't know, and the surprises just keep on coming.
While action, characterization, and setting all continue strong in this second book, what really set it apart from the first one is the romance. I won't name any names, but in the first book it was minimal and sweet. It helped Eliza grow up, and she learned from it. In this second book, it is much more present and absolutely perfect. It was everything you could ever want from romance, without overpowering the main story plot, and I loved it.
And the ending!!!!!! Honestly, it's like the end of Catching Fire. You know there are problems that the third book has to deal with, and then they do something (like destroy a certain district that shall remain nameless), and you sort of just sit there in shock and wish with everything in you that the third book was already out and sitting next to you so you could gobble it up immediately.
This book is absolutely 4.5 stars, with the real chance that it may become more. I'm still a little bit caught in Rae Carson's world. I haven't quite been able to rip myself out, so I'm waiting for a little objectivity to set in. Still, the writing is wonderful, the story plot explosive, and the romance gut-wrenching. What more could you possibly want in a book? If you're looking for a great fantasy, this is it. It is everything a YA fantasy should be and more, and I can't wait to see what Rae Carson will do next.