Revisiting: The Bitter Kingdom

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Goodreads Summary:

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 né 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.

Oh, this book, this series! It was so much more than I expected and I loved it.

This finale was amazing. At first I was a little worried about the new adventure for this one, with so much going on in the capital was Elisa really going to be able to achieve all she was going after without loosing something? But oh man, Elisa just continued to show how smart and strategic she is and how determined she was to fulfill all of her goals.

One of the things I really loved about this too, was the fact that Elisa is fighting for the ‘big picture’. She wasn’t fighting for a crown she thought only she deserved, she was fighting for her people, for what she knew was the best opportunity for peace and growth within the kingdom and the continent. On top of that she’s fighting for the man she loves, for the friends who have stood by her side, and for understanding of her Godstone and her ‘mission’ as its bearer.

She grew so much in this series and I think it’s a testament to Carson’s writing that it was done in such an organic way. The Elisa we are introduced to in the first book and the one we leave on the last pages of this one are completely different people, but it’s not hard to believe how one became the other. Elisa is an all out warrior by the end of this and I think it’s so amazing that not only is she whip smart, but now physically capable.

Oh Hector. I loved the addition of his POV in this book. It’s the first time in the series we’ve had any voice besides Elisa’s narrating, but it worked really well. His chapters were sparingly placed, and only ever added to the plot progression and character development. It was so much fun getting a look inside his head after getting to know him better in the second book.

I also loved that everyone got their happy ending. It wasn’t easy though, and I think that’s what makes the best happy endings. They all had to fight for what they wanted, and they all come to their conclusions a little broken and a little changed, but also with a better understanding of themselves and a new appreciation for what they are able to keep.

Overall, Loved it! Loved it all! Go read it now if you haven’t already!

My second read of this book left me with many of the same feelings from the first read through. I will again point to the alternating POV, Carson did such a good job creating two distinct voices. It’s very easy to tell when we are reading Hector. And I know I rave about how much I love the relationship between Elisa and Hector, but it’s so rare to find such a strong relationship in this genre. I really loved the involvement of Storm in this, he’s truly become a part of the group and his adaptation to the Joyans plays such a large part into what Elisa is trying to achieve. All the characters go through so many changes, and I loved seeing older characters, like Elisa’s sister, showing up and giving light to just how far they have all come since the first book.

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Revisiting: The Crown of Embers

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Goodreads Summary:

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 really enjoyed the first book in this series, much more than I had expected, and this book was simply amazing. We all know I am fan of the squeal, and this book is exactly why.

Elisa goes through a ton of growth in the first book, but this one just keeps pushing her. She’s faced with so many tough decisions, as well as personal issues. She’s being forced to choose her country over herself and it’s taking a tole on her self-esteem. She’s facing push-back from her court, she’s still learning about her Godstone and its meaning, and ultimately she’s growing up. By the end of this book she is truly a woman, no longer giving into old friends or advisers, and learning to trust herself more than she ever has.

While the majority of this book takes place in her palace, the political elements are so action filled that there is never a dull moment. On top of that, we see Elisa developing deeper and more trusting relationships with those around her. She and Mara are beginning to bond, she is learning that she can make decisions without consulting her faithful nurse, and the members of her court like little Rosario, Tristan, and her old cohorts from the East highlight facets of her new growth and ownership of her role as the bearer and queen.

Ultimately though, I think the relationship we all love most is the one that develops between she and Hector. I loved Hector from the start, but watching them work together, seeing them develop deeper emotions for one another, and the strength they imbue in each other is amazing. It’s one of those book romances that you can’t help but get swoony over. I can’t wait to see how they navigate their tenuous relationship in the final installment.

Beyond the amazing relationships that develop in this, there are also some new characters that I really like and can’t wait to see more of. The continuing discoveries about the Godstone are also really interesting and I don’t even know what to expect with that anymore. What I am most excited for though is how Elisa takes her new idea of forming her own destiny – not letting it be formed by those around her and old pieces of parchment – and executes that in this last book. This is definitely one of my new favorite series.

On my second read I had forgotten how quickly Elisa started to resent her nurse Ximena, especially when she begins to meddle in Elisa’s life. Elisa has truly come into her own, but her uncertainty of the new role has her being rash and mercurial – but that’s her growth in this one. She learns how to balance council from others with her personal beliefs and need to appear strong.

The swoon hit me hard again in this, I love the slow burn of Elisa and Hector, and how they trust and respect each other with her decisions and role as queen. As she gains confidence in her role to make decisions, his support is something that I think exacerbates Ximena’s transition from protector and confidant to inhibitor. Elisa outgrows her need for that relationship. I also loved getting old characters from the desert back in this one still, and their friendships help her find a comfort zone in her new role. As well as the new role of Tristain, who becomes a fast favorite, and adds a nice element of diversity to this series.

 

Revisiting: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

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Goodreads Summary:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king–a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

I like Carson, I read her most recent book, Walk on Earth a Stranger, before I even really thought about this series. She’s great at world building, and it’s now clear to me now how she got so good at it.

I did not like Elisa, the MC, for about the first third of this book; she was deep in a pit of self pity, naive, and ate her feelings instead of confronting them. However, I did like that even though she knew she was overweight, and she knew (to some level) that she ate to fill a hole in herself, she never really cared all that much about her body. She eventually loses all the weight, but again, I like that it didn’t focus on outward appearance when she did, but reflected her new sense of purpose, she was being active, she was living hard, and she was so mentally stimulated that food was no longer her main priority or source of comfort.

Elisa does go through a lot of growth in this book. She takes on her role as some sort of savior as best she can, finding ways to use her natural talents to be helpful and finding something to fight for. I was not a huge fan of the romance in this one, the guy was nice and all, but there really wasn’t a depth to it. I understand why it happened though, he was the first guy who looked past her weight and her title and gave her a support system that she had never had outside her two attendants.

On a much deeper level, Carson was able to bring some pretty serious religious debates into this novel, and I can see this as being something of a turn off to some readers. I was a bit skeptical when I started getting into the story, but it never becomes preachy or fighting for one interpretation over another, which I thought was a great achievement and was very interesting. One of the things that really struck me was between taking the “word of God” literally or analyzing it. Now, as a Catholic married into a Baptist family, this is a debate I am very familiar with, so it was really interesting to see the different ways that Carson played it out. Overall, the various views of one religion was interesting in general. I could easily get into a pretty intense intellectual discussion about all the ideas and interpretations she highlights in this book, and that alone I think makes this a fantastic read.

On my second read through of this I found myself not having the same distaste for Elisa in the beginning. Elisa’s still insecure and a little naive, but when her mind is set to something she is able to put it behind her. It sets up nicely for how confident and commanding she becomes. I loved the brief but deep interactions with Hector, you can see the foundation of their future relationship forming.  I also really appreciated the role Cosme fills.  She is an intriguing character, and I appreciate her complexity. She’s more then just the female companion, and more than just the mean girl.

Review: Like a River Glorious

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Goodreads Synopsis:

After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.

Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom.

I didn’t end up rereading Walk on Earth a Stranger, and while there were certain things that I wasn’t very clear on, the bulk of the story was refreshed well enough by the first few chapters that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything going into this sequel.

I had a little bit of an issue with how Lee ended up at her uncles camp, it seemed too much like Plot was driving it, but the interest I have in the characters was able to overshadow that well enough. I enjoyed how Lee’s witchy powers adapted in this one, and seeing she and Jeff grow together more. I also really liked the overall family feel and dedication she and her fellow camp members had with each other.

The main argument I have seen about the book is the portrayal of the Native Americans, and how they ‘help the nice white people.” I though the author did a great job addressing one of the darkest aspects of our country’s history. She made Lee face her unconscious prejudices, and acknowledge that her hardships were nothing compared to those of the Native Americans and Chinese Immigrants. She also points out several great books in her acknowledgments that go into deeper study of both groups experience in Gold Rush California.

I felt like the story was pretty resolved at the end of this, so I am interested to see if there really is a third book, and what all is going to happen. I can see how her powers and the statehood could cause a good story, but the main villain seems to be dealt with, and a reappearance of Uncle Hiram wouldn’t feel natural after how this ended.

Talking of Uncle Hiram, the subtlety to his villainy was so well done. He’s obsessed with Lee’s mother, and using her to try and fill that hole. There were so many times where I was terrified that the relationship was going to take on an even darken turn. His obsession is what makes him so scary; not his need to be rich or the fact that he’s a murderer, but his obsession. The subtlety to the darkness of Hiram, on top of the dangers and hardships of the environment, with her strong characters, makes this series a strong one.

Review: The Bitter Kingdom

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Goodreads Summary:

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 né 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.

Oh, this book, this series! It was so much more than I expected and I loved it, definitely another new series to revisit.

This finale was amazing. At first I was a little worried about the new adventure for this one, with so much going on in the capital was Elisa really going to be able to achieve all she was going after without loosing something? But oh man, Elisa just continued to show how smart and strategic she is and how determined she was to fulfill all of her goals.

One of the things I really loved about this too, was the fact that Elisa is fighting for the ‘big picture’. She wasn’t fighting for a crown she thought only she deserved, she was fighting for her people, for what she knew was the best opportunity for peace and growth within the kingdom and the continent. On top of that she’s fighting for the man she loves, for the friends who have stood by her side, and for understanding of her Godstone and her ‘mission’ as its bearer.

She grew so much in this series and I think it’s a testament to Carson’s writing that it was done in such an organic way. The Elisa we are introduced to in the first book and the one we leave on the last pages of this one are completely different people, but it’s not hard to believe how one became the other. Elisa is an all out warrior by the end of this and I think it’s so amazing that not only is she whip smart, but now physically capable.

Oh Hector. I loved the addition of his POV in this book. It’s the first time in the series we’ve had any voice besides Elisa’s narrating, but it worked really well. His chapters were sparingly placed, and only ever added to the plot progression and character development. It was so much fun getting a look inside his head after getting to know him better in the second book.

I also loved that everyone got their happy ending. It wasn’t easy though, and I think that’s what makes the best happy endings. They all had to fight for what they wanted, and they all come to their conclusions a little broken and a little changed, but also with a better understanding of themselves and a new appreciation for what they are able to keep.

Overall, Loved it! Loved it all! Go read it now if you haven’t already!

Review: The Crown of Embers

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Goodreads Summary:

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 really enjoyed the first book in this series, much more than I had expected, and this book was simply amazing. We all know I am fan of the squeal, and this book is exactly why.

Elisa goes through a ton of growth in the first book, but this one just keeps pushing her. She’s faced with so many tough decisions, as well as personal issues. She’s being forced to choose her country over herself and it’s taking a tole on her self-esteem. She’s facing push-back from her court, she’s still learning about her Godstone and its meaning, and ultimately she’s growing up. By the end of this book she is truly a woman, no longer giving into old friends or advisers, and learning to trust herself more than she ever has.

While the majority of this book takes place in her palace, the political elements are so action filled that there is never a dull moment. On top of that, we see Elisa developing deeper and more trusting relationships with those around her. She and Mara are beginning to bond, she is learning that she can make decisions past her faithful nurse, and the members of her court like little Rosario, Tristan, and her old cohorts from the East highlight facets of her new growth and ownership of her role as the bearer and as a queen.

Ultimately though, I think the relationship we all love most is the one that develops between she and Hector. I loved Hector from the start, but watching them work together, seeing them develop deeper emotions for one another, and the strength they imbue in each other is amazing. It’s one of those book romances that you can’t help but love and get swoony over. I can’t wait to see how they navigate their tenuous relationship in the final installment.

Beyond the amazing relationships that develop in this, there are also some new characters that I really like and can’t wait to see more of. The continuing discoveries about the Godstone are also really interesting and I don’t even know what to expect with that anymore. What I am most excited for though is how Elisa takes her new idea of forming her own destiny – not letting it be formed by those around her and old pieces of parchment – and executes that in this last book. This is definitely one of my new favorite series.

 

 

Coming This Week: Jan. 4

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It’s a new year, I can’t believe it! I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday break. I’m sure you all are still adjusting to getting back to real life, and I understand that. The break was great for me, I was able to distance myself from my current MS, which brought on some unplanned ideas, and got to take on some home projects like a new headboard and nightstands made from reclaimed wood. Now though I need to get back into my writing! I need at least one more strong round of edits on my MS, and then I really need to get into my WIP that has been floating around in the background only getting occasional attention.

I’m sure all of you are in the same boat, and while I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, I am going to make a concerted effort to have more faith in myself and my writing projects. What about all of you?

Anyway. This week for my first book reviews of 2016 you’ll see:

A great series that I ended 2015 with and will certainly be revisiting in the future. On Wednesday I am going to outline my reading plans for the year!

I’m glad to be back and excited to start another year blogging!