4 1/2 Star Review:
A YA book without insta-love! There must be a blue moon or something, right?
Rae Carson may be one of the few authors of Young Adult fiction I love most. Here’s why: she doesn’t slut shame, she doesn’t write insta-love, she writes realistic character development, and she has the heroine save herself instead of the male lead swooping in.
But, she also does something I feel was quite brave: she created a story line that has a big influence on religion. Yet, she doesn’t preach or force the reader the religious aspects of her novel. She never makes you feel uncomfortable with the religious parts of the book. I love this because I’m not at all a religious person. To be perfectly blunt, I’m an atheist. Just because I don’t have the same beliefs as Elisa, doesn’t mean I’m going to judge others for their personal beliefs. I can proudly say that the book doesn’t prescribe to one of the belief systems that Carson presents in her novel.
Elisa may be religious, but it’s presented in a way that doesn’t force itself on the reader. It’s completely plot based and personal to the protagonist. Never once did I think or suspect Carson was trying to force her opinions on me. I’ve read books like that. For example a certain science fiction writer, who will remain nameless because he’s an asshole. I won’t fucking give him the pleasure of mentioning him in this review.
The relationship development in this book was phenomenal. I loved how Elisa’s relationship with her nurse Ximena changes. Elisa becomes so much more independent in this book, even though she feels like everything is falling apart. The way Hector and Elisa’s friendship changes becomes one of the best part of this book.
Elisa has earned her right as Queen of Joya d’Arena. She’s fought for and lost those she’s loved. Unfortunately, her hardships as Queen don’t end there. She must now rule her kingdom with confidence. She must become the ruler her husband wasn’t. This provides difficult for Elisa because there are many who don’t believe she has the strength to be a strong ruler. The Quorum lords don’t trust her. The people are now struggling for their livelihood and rioting. Everyone has demands. If it’s not the Quorum lords, than it’s the people of Joya d’Arena. She wants to do what’s right for her country. But Elisa can’t quite figure out how to please everyone.
Stakes become even higher when her life is threatened. Elisa becomes frightened for her life. She needs to find out who almost killed her and why. Elisa believes some within her trust circle have been plotting against her. In addition Elisa is losing control of her crown. Some may not think she has the right to be Queen. Elisa believes that if she finds the knowledge and power of her Godstone, than her ruling will not be questioned or even threatened. She journeys towards something that will help her gain the power of her Godstone.
Along the way Elisa gains many things. She realizes more about love, friendship, confidence, and independence than she knew before. This book becomes more about Elisa’s confidence and independence than anything else. She learns that intelligence and confidence becomes the power to rule her nation. She doesn’t need to please everyone. She learns to be a strong ruler, something which her husband didn’t gain in his lifetime.
Rae Carson’s plot actually stays consistent. This doesn’t mean that her plots aren’t complex. The focus in this book stays on: Elisa gaining the courage and strength to rule her people. Whether that means going in search of something that she believes will get her there or dealing with assassination attempts that would prevent her from her purpose. Carson doesn’t stray from the main plot. But even so, Carson does have some sub-plots; but, they don’t take the focus off Elisa’s determination to become a strong Queen for the people of Joya d’Arena. Elisa’s relationships become part of gaining confidence in her abilities. Each major part in the Crown of Embers has purpose and leads to something that will lead to the climax of the novel.
The descriptions in Crown of Embers may not be gorgeous prose per say, but Carson has a talent for setting the mood for the reader. She’s able to use description to create tension in action scenes or slow the pacing down to create an intimate moment. The moments when Elisa and her friends reach their destination make for some of the most beautiful descriptions:
There are no palm trees here, just sprawling cypress and towering eucalyptus and a tree I’ve never seen before, with such huge broad leaves that a single leaf would cover my whole body. Birds flit among branches; dappled light catches on them and shoots away in prismatic facets. It’s so startlingly odd that I peer closer.
No, not birds. They’re giant insects, as large as ospreys, with downy white abdomens and gossamer wings.
Carson shows her characters feelings with exuberance:
Up ahead, the curtains of the queen’s carriage part, and Ximena peeks out. I smile and wink. She starts to smile back, but then she sees Hector beside me and her smile fades. The curtain swishes back into place.
She’s an author that shows the reader the characters emotions. But, she doesn’t leave out the internal thoughts on the characters part either. I never felt left out or confused when reading this book. It’s the mark of great writer when you never find yourself confused. Shockingly, this has happened to me too many time in the past to count. Consistency people! it’s a powerful thing.
Elisa becomes a woman in this book. She matures and grows in her realizations about her strength and her relationships. By the end you’ll be routing for her intense confidence in herself. I love confident heroines, but I prefer to read about how they gain their confidence. We get to see this journey in Elisa. The scene where Elisa tells off her nurse is fucking BRILLIANT! I’m so glad she didn’t just brush off her nurse as if it was nothing, who’s constantly deciding for Elisa. If Elisa’s nurse Ximena were a man, how would you feel? She’s constantly making decisions for Elisa; rather than making them with Elisa’s permission. I loved that scene. My other favorite scene is the scene with Mara and the lady’s shroud. You’ll see what I mean. It’s amazing to read a novel that doesn’t shy away from the female body image.
Mara, Elisa’s good friend, shows her colors in Crown of Embers. She doesn’t hide away her thoughts and opinions. When Elisa asks whether Mara’s ever had a lover before, she goes right out and says to Elisa:
“Mara, have you ever had a lover?”
She doesn’t hesitate. “Yes. Two.”
That’s great that she doesn’t regret her decisions and isn’t embarrassed of her sexuality. There’s no slut shaming on Elisa’s part either. I didn’t come across slut shaming once in this book. It’s fucking rare to come across a book that doesn’t do that. Mara isn’t rich or stuck-up. She’s completely happy with being herself. She’s a normal girl.
Ximena, Ximena, Ximena. She’s constantly hot and cold with me. One moment I love how kind and strong she is and the next I want to gut her. I hate, just fucking hate how she goes over Elisa’s head as if she knows what’s best for Elisa
Elisa is old enough to understand what’s right for her life. She doesn’t need some old granny doing it for her. Elisa has fought in a war as well as become Queen of Joya d’Arena. I think she fucking knows by now what she wants. Yeah. Elisa’s young. But, that doesn’t mean she can’t decide for herself. That’s it for Ximena. I’m not talking about her anymore. She pisses me off too much.
Oh, you want to know about the mushy part of Crown of Embers? Elisa and Hector…Hector and Elisa. Ah, yes. A slow burn romance. My favorite. I LOVE THE ROMANCE IN THIS BOOK! It grows so realistically and it’s so well developed that it becomes so much more satisfying than fucking insta-love. The smallest of the intimate moments become the most heart wrenching parts in my opinion. Carson creates these little descriptions between Hector and Elisa:
His gaze drops to the ground, and his chest rises and falls with a breath. “Always.”
which grow to something so much bigger:
something overtakes me, desperation maybe, and before I know it I’m slipping my hand past the tent flap. My fingers find his wrist. It shifts, and suddenly my hand is wrapped in one of Hector’s much larger ones. Something about his gentle strength brings tears to my eyes.
Although beware, the ending is utterly and completely ANGER-INDUCING! You’ll understand what I mean if you’ve read the book.