(sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns)
Remember when I wrote that post about Sequel Anxiety and how I was nervous about this sequel because I wasn't sure The Girl of Fire and Thorns needed a sequel, and I didn't know if this book would be as good as the first?
I'm glad to say I was proven wrong--because The Crown of Embers is much better than its predecessor.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns is about a girl learning to believe in herself and find her own inner strength. The Crown of Embers is about learning how to use that strength for the greater good--not just how to use it effectively, but more importantly, how to use it wisely (and where to draw the line.) Over the course of the book, Elisa has to deal with a struggling kingdom and the inner and outer forces that threaten it--problems that cannot always be resolved with a magical amulet. She has to make a lot of unpleasant decisions, some of which conflict with her own moral beliefs.
One thing I appreciate about this series is that Elisa is never a passive character. Not only is she always making decisions, but her decisions are actually believable--they're never too idealistic, nor are they cruelly self-serving. More importantly, her decisions have consequences, and they're not always good ones. And I appreciated that she continues to question her ability to rule and/or serve as the Chosen One.
I also liked how the characters in this book were much better developed than in the first book, especially Hector and Mara. And the romantic development was gradual enough that I had no problems believing it.
One of the only real issues I had was the ending--it's the kind of major cliffhanger ending writers use to convince people to buy Book Three, and believe me, you have seen it before. (Not that I wasn't going to pick up The Bitter Kingdoms, because I totally would, cliffhanger or no.)
In short, if you liked The Girl of Fire and Thorns, you will definitely like The Crown of Embers.