Sunday, September 1, 2013

More Like "The Butt-Kickin' Kingdom"

Elisa's reign as queen has never been easy, but in the final installment of the Girl of Fire and Thorns saga, Rae Carson gives us and ending so epic, it will give you shivers. The Bitter Kingdom is a conclusion like no other.

Elisa has suffered through being married off to a man she had never met for political reasons, the loss of a husband she had just come to appreciate, being kidnapped, the loss of a man she loved, assassination attempts, and now attacks upon her kingdom. As a foreign-born queen, Elisa must do more to prove to her people she can protect them. As the Invierno sorcerers finish their attack on her city, she escapes, but not before her beloved guard Hector is kidnapped. Determined to find Hector, Elisa and a trusted group of loyal friends head off through the mountains and desert to find the man she loves. 

Along the way, Elisa realizes she has tapped into the power of her Godstone through the discovery of a source of power. Storm, the Invierno traitor turned loyal subject, works with Elisa to hone her powers. While she knew she had grown since her original marriage as a plump, bored princess, she had no idea just how much has truly grown. As one of the most powerful animagus to ever live, she knows she now has the power to protect her kingdom from the Inviernos and their magic. But it is her fearless nature and determination to protect her people that is the true force to be reckoned with. People may underestimate Elisa, but that is just one more thing in her favor, because if they underestimate her, they will never see it coming when she follows through on all her plans.

I have absolutely loved this story from the first book to the last. Carson wove a web of stories that were so intricate and so engaging that you simply couldn't stop reading. There was no sophomore slump throughout the series, and the ending? Don't expect any downtime here! This story was action-packed from the first page to the last. With the exception of about 5 pages at the end to give us an epilogue with information on how life turned out for everyone, this book just didn't release its vice grip on you until you were done! If you are the kind of reader who needs to be engaged from start to finish, this really is the series for you. Not a dull moment to be found!

I have said this before, with Carson's previous books, but I will say it again. There is something so incredible about Elisa that she really has to be one of my absolute favorite heroines in all the books I have read. She is strong, she won't be broken, she doesn't scare easily, and if she does, she uses that fear to take back what is hers and find a way to resolve any solution with as few casualties as possible. I love the fact that her body is constantly discussed as well. You would think this should be something inconsequential, but there is something so important about a heroine who lived a life of pleasure, who didn't fit the "princess mold" in terms of her body type, and who still rose to the occasion and defied all expectations. And even when she slimmed down, she was still built differently. People commented on it and made snide comments, but Elisa used their derision to catch them off guard. It was fabulous! But it was her ability to negotiate and see the big picture that made Elisa so successful and made me truly love her. 

The supporting characters are just as dynamic as Elisa. Mula, the slave girl they rescue on their travels, is so funny, loyal, and appreciative that you can't help but love her! She drives them all nuts with her candidness, but that is what I love the most about her! She just tells it like it is! Then there is Storm, the Invierno traitor who became Elisa's ambassador and finally her loyal subject. Inviernos are described as a primitive race who were there before Elisa's ancestors "descended" and began taking over. Unfortunately, there isn't much information past this tidbit, but the Inviernos clearly despise anyone who isn't their kind. They also can't lie. In fact, trying to get a straight answer reminds me of trying to get a straight answer out of a faerie, as described in other novels. They can't lie, but they are more than happy to trick, mislead, and deceive. That is Storm. And his people. So his blunt honesty can be humorous or unwelcomed, but it is who Storm is! And while he drives everyone else nuts, Elisa is protective over the strange man. And his loyalty to her is matched only by her other traveling companions. 

This was just such a special story full of magic, sorcerers, strong ladies, and the lands they will die to protect. If you have any student who loves a little fantasy and needs a fabulous story to keep them interested, look no further. You have found it. As a conclusion, this was a fabulous way to wrap up a story I have followed since the first book was released. I loved it so much, I can't even find the right words to describe it! I think the beautiful complexity matched with the simplistic strength of the story will appeal to young adults as well as adult readers. And Ms. Carson? You had better be working on something new, because I cannot wait too long without something more from you!

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