Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most. Quoted from Goodreads
First: Elisa. I adore her for so many, many reasons. She's smart, funny, brave, determined, cleaver, and refuses to give up. She's also fat when she starts the series. This may sound silly, but when's the last time you read a YA book whose main character wasn't "too skinny?" Seriously. Plus she's changed so much from the beginning of the series to it's conclusion. She's really grown up, discovered who she is, and she's accepted it while constantly striving to be better. She trusts and depends on her friends, but she really comes into her own.
Then, of course, there is Hector. While it was great to get a glimpse into his mind in the prequel novella The King's Guard, we actually get a few chapters from his POV in this book as well! I loved those little insights. Plus, well, he's just plain awesome. I love the way his and Elisa's relationship has developed. It's delightfully free of angst this time around. It's honest and sweet, and I love the way they are together.
Then there's Elisa's friends. I love them. I love her bond with Mara. She's not an annoying sidekick or the plucky comic relief. She's serious, encouraging, and fun. Then we have Storm. I really do love the way his and Elisa's relationship has developed, from contempt to strong friendship. They are an excellent support system for Elisa, while both having their own depth, hardships, and trials.
The action. This is a perfect third book. We get peak after peak of highlights. There were several points that could easily have been the end of the book or the adventure. Not in a Return of a King sort of way (love the movie, the the endings went on and on), but this has to be the climax of the book---no, this is the high point. There is always something happening, some new threat, whether political, magical, weather, monsters, or just plain kicking butt, that keeps you turning pages.
Finally, the ending. It's perfect. It gives you just enough of the after to be satisfied without dragging everything out for too long (Clockwork Princess, I'm looking at you). I won't say more because I don't want to give anything away, but I loved the way things worked out with just about everything.
This is a solid 5 star book and series. It's been one of my most anticipated releases this year, and I'm kind of sad to see the series end. Still, Rae Carson has a new series coming out next year, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.