Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda, Luis Moreno
Series: Fire and Thorns #3
Published by Harper Audio on August 27th, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 12 hrs and 58 mins
The champion must not waver.
The champion must not fear.
The gate of darkness closes.
Elisa is a fugitive.
Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness. Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight.
Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa née Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three loyal companions deep into the enemy's kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne. Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover on this, her final journey, could change the course of history.
But that is not all. She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for.
Even of those who hate her most.
I did it guys. I finished this series and sadly… I remain the black sheep who was passively entertained but a long way from enthralled. The Bitter Kingdom did some things that I liked, but in other ways remained boring to me. The series’ peak was The Crown of Embers for me, and I will just stay here in my corner, forever puzzled about all the hype.
There are things that The Bitter Kingdom did well, admittedly. Elisa has grown throughout the series, and in The Bitter Kingdom she fully embraces her role as Queen. She gets involved in politics, negotiating with other parties and carefully determining the best course of action. I grudgingly respect her, but I still don’t really care for her that much. I don’t know why that is. I don’t. I think it still bothers me that as Queen, when she KNOWS that her court has staged a coup, she would go off on her own for …months? to rescue Hector. It’s like, I know I should be cheering for her – because, hey, it’s Hector – but at the same time, I’m thinking big picture about the state of her country and it just annoys me. Priorities!
On the other hand, there are characters that I did like that saved it for me. That would mostly be Hector, who is careful and protective but respectful and basically perfect, but also Mara and Belen. Those two make a really cute side ship, for what it’s worth, though I wish we’d seen more of that.
I also appreciated that in this book, finally, Elisa grows to question her faith – though perhaps not as much as I would have liked. By finally learning more about the Invierno, the Godstone, and the history of the continent, I feel like the world building got a lot stronger, and that in turn helped shed some light on the relationships between the different countries. But in other ways, this led to a series of spoilery disappointments. View Spoiler »It’s frustrating to me that they know the Godstone is very likely not related to god, but we still don’t know where it does come from. Did we even figure out why that oasis was so important? I may have forgotten because this book’s plot faded so quickly from my memory. And it feels WRONG to me that Elisa should lose her Godstone and her connection to magic, and that she would still be accepted as Empress. Like, maybe that’s a problem for later, because not a lot of people know, but come on. Most people accept her because of her ALL POWERFUL MAGICAL ABILITIES. And. I dunno. I just don’t like this random, convenient magical “system” that’s really not a system at all. « Hide Spoiler
The romance which I grew to LOVE in The Crown of Embers became puzzlingly awkward to me here. There is something to be said for awkward romances, because love is not always perfect, and especially if you’re in your first real relationship and sex gets involved and shit, things can be weird. But I mostly like that kind of thing in my contemporaries. In fantasies I still have an ideal of a beautiful romance with none of that stuff, so when Elisa and Hector are awkward together, my shippy feels kind of shriveled. Her constant reminders of her taking the Lady’s Shroud? Okay, it’s good that you’re being safe, but also that seemed really inappropriate and awkward at times. Not very romantic. And just other things. And they hardly got time to really be together. The intense chemistry that I felt between them in The Crown of Embers rather fizzled out for me. And that is sad. I mean, I still like them together, and they are cute, and I am happy for them… but I did not ship it like burning when I should have.
The plot to me remains too simplistic. This fantasy series is very much a political one instead of an action adventure. There’s a lot of walking and walking and walking to get somewhere before walking, walking, walking to the next place. When I expected there would be thrilling battles (because the book, nay, the SERIES has been screaming all along WAR IS COMING), they almost stopped before they got started. And usually I like political stuff! Courtly politics, with all their intrigue and scheming, that’s usually totally my cup of tea. But here it just seemed to simple. Elisa gets the upper hand so easily. People just agree to her so easily. And yes, like I said, she has grown, and she does exhibit some strength, some negotiation skills, but I just don’t buy it. It should have been more complicated. As it was… I was mostly just bored. The plot of this series to me is just a flat line, with no high points or low points. And with three books of this size, that’s a problem.
AND IF I NEVER HEAR THE WORD “BELLY” AGAIN IT’LL BE TOO SOON.