Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: Fire and Thorns #2
Published by Harper Audio on September 18, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins
She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.
Elisa is a hero.
She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.
Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.
To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.
If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
I put off reading The Crown of Embers for ages because, well, after The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I just wasn’t that enthusiastic or convinced that the series was really something for me. However, I’d heard the audiobooks were pretty good, and with the added benefit of being able to multitask, I figured I should give it a shot. Ultimately, I will say the sequel is far better than the original – but it’s still not my favorite fantasy series ever.
I will say that I enjoyed this a great deal as an audiobook, because Jennifer Ikeda is a fantastic narrator. She does great voices to make the dialogue come alive, and she really manages to convey emotion and intensity when necessary. Pretty much a side note, only for audiobook fans, but one worth mentioning.
Let’s cut to the chase: yes, Hector is fantastic. But to be honest, the “princess and her guard” type of ship tends to always work for me. Mustache-less Hector is stoic, strong, silent, and swoony, and it wasn’t hard to understand why so many people ship him and Elisa. They have quite the chemistry. In fact, the romance was the highlight of the book for me. I won’t lie to you: the extra swoony scenes (i.e. the sewers) actually gave me butterflies. That all makes the ending quite dramatic and emotional and ugh okay, I do need the next book ASAP.
But aside from the romance, the book fell a bit flat to me. I still find it rather average, compared with other beloved fantasy series. Elisa does not really stand out in any big way. She’s starting to stand on her own two feet and get strong and independent at the end of the book, but for most of it she was pushed around, forced to marry, forced to adhere to the political advice of others, etc. etc. And I’m not saying that that’s not realistic – I can imagine a young queen like her would be put exactly in that position. But her personality lacked a spark for me to really connect and sympathize with her. I could actually really understand people not finding her a fit queen, because yeah, she really doesn’t have much experience or exhibit strong leadership qualities. I don’t actively dislike her, but I’m not really cheering her on either. I’m a bit bored by her, but I do think she can win me over in The Bitter Kingdom, because the way The Crown of Embers ended gave me hope.
The emphasis on religion still makes me groan. And I think now it’s mostly because this is such an essential part of the world building – but it makes it all too simplistic. Magic exists because God. Elisa is chosen because God. The Godstone warns Elisa of good and bad things. The Godstone grants her whatever powers she needs whenever she needs them. God tells her to go on this mission for more magical powers. View Spoiler »Then she completely destroys the place, but whatever. « Hide Spoiler The world building is messy and boring and average, and I still care next to nothing about it.
The plot actually bored me at times, mostly because of its predictability. In the long run I don’t get where it’s going, and it seems a bit aimless. The first half of the book just seemed like “snapshots of court life”, with some additional threats on Elisa’s life, but okay, I was entertained enough because Hector. But some of the romantic drama I rolled my eyes at because I immediately knew View Spoiler »that if Hector resigned as guard and inherited his countship, they could marry. That was SO OBVIOUS. And the whole time, Elisa’s like, “WE CAN NEVER BE TOGETHER.” Oh please. « Hide Spoiler I kind of enjoyed her trials with finding a new husband, but again I guessed that View Spoiler »Tristán would be gay. I don’t know why, but I just knew instantly. « Hide Spoiler Objectively, that was a really cool twist, but I didn’t even really give it a second thought.
And the mission to the zafira seemed like such a detour. The country is in uproar, your rule is shaky, and you’re gonna sneak off on a mission now because God told you to? Perhaps this is my fault for being faithless, but it just seemed so random. (Again: kind of get the unfit queen insinuations View Spoiler »especially when at the end she destroys the gate to the zafira and realizes that its powers are in everything, making the whole mission pointless « Hide Spoiler.) And I don’t even know what’s going on with the Invierne now. Why do they hate Joya D’Arena again? o_O Shouldn’t THAT kind of have been the focal point of this book? What is this plot??
But again, I actually enjoyed this book. Because Hector.