Cover Crown of Embers: A crown with a cresting wave and ship on top, surrounded by filigree and a blue background

About the Book

Title: The Crown of Embers (Girl of Fire and Thorns #2)
Published: 2012

Cover Story: Formerly A Hot Mess
BFF Charm: Platinum
Talky Talk: Keeps Getting Better
Bonus Factors: Adventure, Tasty Business
Factor: Religion
Relationship Status: Put A Ring On It

Careful, Sweetie: spoilers! This is the second book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns series, so if you haven’t read the previous one, you should probably hop back in the TARDIS and go curl up in the library by the pool with the first book before continuing.

Cover Story: Formerly A Hot Mess

I was torn whether or not to use this newer paperback redesign cover or not, because I am kind of a purist and I also want your eyes to suffer as mine did so you can understand how truly awful the original cover was (it’s NAGL. The face in the gemstone (why??) and the collage of mystical-y backgrounds, barf). But if you happen to stumble upon this review and don’t know anything about the book, I decided I didn’t want you judge it by its fumbling beginnings because this new cover matches the insides SO much better. 

The Deal:

It’s been a few months since the invasion of Inviernos that killed King Alessandro and crowned Elisa as the Queen Regent, and while the people seem to accept her, the country is still healing from the war. It’s going to take a lot of taxes and time to get things sorted to rights. Elisa feels like an imposter queen, and it doesn’t help that her Quorum is pushing her to marry to shore up alliances (and, essentially, so a “man” can “help” run things). In between assassination attempts, riots, and political undermining, Elisa hears whispers of a hidden place of magical power that could change everything for her—if she’s brave enough to look for it.

BFF Charm: Platinum

BFF platinum charm

I love Elisa because she’s a great mix of a girl who was raised a princess, grew up fast, and had access to all sorts of education and learning, but she’s not a hardened badass (yet); she’s still a seventeen-year-old in a position of power who second-guesses her choices and isn’t quite secure in herself. It’s realistic and relatable. At the start of the first book she was, well, kind of weak and whiny, but she made mistakes and actually learned from them. She’s stronger at the start of this book, but she still has a long way to go to become the woman she’ll need to be to keep a country running, though I have every confidence in her.

Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Y’ALL. The SWOON in this book is a big part of what made me fall for this series. In the first book, Elisa is married to a man who is hung up on his dead wife and his mistress, and while she hopes they can eventually be something to one another, he dies before they can figure it out. She also falls in love with a sweet little rebel who kidnapped her, Humberto, but he’s unfortunately murdered right in front of her. So in The Crown of Embers, Elisa is, understandably, a little wary of love. She’s always really respected Hector, the captain of her guard, as a friend and confidante, and suddenly all that respect is slowly unfurling into something more. I love Hector SO much! He’s protective and smart without being an alpha-jerk, and he’s a romantic at heart. Sa-woon.

The slow-burn romance here is just, UGH, so good it hurts. There are realistic reasons for them to fall in love, and they spend actual time getting to know one another (as part of their friendship-turned-more), and even the reasons holding them back from each other feel right within the context of the story and not like manufactured drama.

Talky Talk: Keeps Getting Better

You’re probably thinking, uh, why this book? It’s been nine years since we reviewed the first one, and as you read the report you may get the feeling that Sarah didn’t exactly love it. I will admit, it’s got a few flaws: Elisa has some body image and food issues that are always a low-key focus, and when she ends up losing some weight while she’s gaining confidence in her leadership abilities, it feels a little “oh, she’s better because she’s hot now”. I don’t believe that was Carson’s intent, and I don’t think diving into Elisa’s body issues was a bad thing, but it was Carson’s first book and it probably could’ve been handled with a bit more nuance. Then there’s also that whole “gemstone in the belly button” thing which is, well, still weird, no matter how you slice it. BUT.

I think a friend urged me to pick this series up, and despite some of those odd bits in the first book, I was drawn in by Rae’s writing and her richly made-up world. After I read this second book, though, I was hooked. The Crown of Embers is really where Elisa’s story shines. I liked the political quagmires she had to work her way out of using her intelligence instead of force. Elisa’s smart, but she’s also young, and she’s learning how to be confident in a place that doesn’t necessarily support women leaders (a shock, I know). The conflict between the countries is also intriguing as we begin to learn more about Joya d’Arena’s enemies, the Inviernos, and realize their anger with Elisa’s adopted country may have more weight than she thought.

There’s also some nice adventure moments and a love story that I still swoon over, so, really, what is there not to like? If you haven’t given this series a try before or picked up the first one and were on the fence about continuing, give it a try! After I read it, I YAngelized this series to so many friends, and so here I am again, especially as Carson is about to release a fourth “companion” book to the series in a few months. It’s the perfect time to dive in! 

Bonus Factor: Adventure

A blue suitcase with a map on it

At some point, Elisa has to go out in search of a greater power source, and she brings along the whole entourage before breaking off into a smaller group. It’s fun to see characters on the move when there’s an interesting world to explore.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

Scones covered in honey

Between honey-coconut scones dripping with glaze, pollo pibil, and sticky date pops, you may be a little hungry when you finish this book. Best have a snack close by.

Factor: Religion

A circle with a map in the middle and multiple different religious symbols all around the edges like a compass

One of the criticisms of the series is the emphasis the characters place on their (made-up) religion. Carson seems to borrow quite a bit from Catholicism to support the main religious system of Elisa’s people (they worship a god who brought them to their world hundreds of years ago when theirs was dying). I do find it interesting that I like the series as much as I do as I am not a religious person by a long shot. In general, I think there’s always a lot of god/goddess talk in fantasy novels, and it never bothers me but I also think it’s because the characters often interact/see their gods, so it’s more “proven”, if you will, than our real-life religions.

Anyway, Elisa is very devout, and I enjoy that within the religious aspects there are multiple themes of knowledge and discovery, of learning real truth, that are woven throughout the book that don’t discount her faith, but do expose her to things long kept secret.

Relationship Status: Put A Ring On It

My answer is yes, Book, I will totally marry you and stand by your side through whatever is coming. Time has only made our bond stronger.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Crown of Embers is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.