The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (2012)
Suggested age range: 14 and up
(Greenwillow Books, 410 pages)
Rating: 5/5 stars
“My faith has been greatly shaken in the last year, but not broken. I have this conduit, after all, this constant reminder that someone or something listens to my prayers, grants me strange power in trying circumstances, warns me of danger. So I know to trust where it leads.”
The Book: The second installment in Carson’s trilogy opens with action and intrigue, similar to the first book. It is Elisa’s birthday celebration, and she is now a triumphant queen, taking on more responsibility in leading her subjects. In the first chapter an animagus surprises Elisa and her entourage; he makes a chilling promise: “ ‘You think you’ve beaten us back, but we are as numerous as the desert sands. Next time we’ll come at you like ghosts in a dream’” (p. 8). Tensions in her kingdom erupt, Elisa’s life is threatened, and she embarks on a quest to find answers to questions, which might just save the world of Joya D’Arena.
Will Elisa find the Zafira, which may be the solution to endless tensions between Joya D’Arena and Invierne? Will she survive, even in the midst of multiple attempts on her life? How will these events affect the relationship between Elisa and Hector, her protector? Many questions are raised during this action-packed narrative, complete with more revelation and insight into Elisa’s developing identity as queen. Though she struggles with insecurity as she did in the first book, the Elisa in Crown of Embers is assuredly more confident and ready to embrace her destiny.
Spirituality in The Crown of Embers: Elisa’s adventures and struggles depicted in the story reflect spirituality in several ways. Like the first one, this book really gets into the spiritual culture of Elisa’s world, and I loved the way Carson presents this culture. Some of the phrases Elisa says to herself when she is in the midst of very stressful situations resemble Biblical scripture, but this in no way turns the book into anything stuffy or too religious. In fact, I appreciated that I could recognize some of these phrases.
Elisa often taps into her Godstone and begins “praying” when she needs peace or is in danger. This is yet another example of how her spirituality is vital for her life and the trials she experiences. Her ability to help those close to her heal from life threatening wounds also illuminates the notion of making sacrifices for people. Elisa possesses significant love and compassion for people, and this is highlighted many places in the story. A spirituality of connectedness is definitely present in the story.
Who Should Read This Book: Young adults and adult who read the first book, of course! Fans of fantasy should pick up this trilogy. Even high school English teachers might consider introducing the books alongside curriculum about plot, character, and theme. Carson’s book is a perfect one for discussion, so this would also make a fabulous book club read.
The Final Word: I really enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns but I think I may have enjoyed the second book even more. Carson does leave readers on a bit of a cliffhanger at the end, but since the third book has already been published, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I strongly recommend reading this trilogy.