Book Review: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Posted December 15, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

The Crown of Embers

The Crown of Embers

by Rae Carson

Series: Fire and Thorns #2
Publisher: Greenwillow Books on September 18, 2012
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

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 both foreign realms and 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 the trail of long-forgotten--and forbidden--clues from the deep, undiscovered catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who--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 just love to read a book that is crawling with tropes, but does all the things I’ve come not to expect when I read this genre.  It’s honestly marvelous.

The Crown of Embers is the second book in Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns series, and when we reunite with Princess Elisa, she’s on unstable ground, politically speaking.  Despite her triumph at the end of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, her kingdom remains in turmoil.  It is suffering economically, and political intrigue is afoot.  Externally, the world is closing in around her, and internally, Elisa doubts her abilities to lead.  If only she could harness the power of her Godstone more effectively….

That’s where we begin in The Crown of Embers.  Elisa is overwhelmed, grieving, young, and lost.  I loved her journey in this book because not only was it a journey book where once again we partake on a quest of sorts, but it was also an internal journey of personal growth and confidence.  Where The Girl of Fire and Thorns took us across the desert, The Crown of Embers takes us underground and across the sea.  Atmospherically, this is a much different book than the first book was, showing the vastness of Rae Carson’s worlds and her skill at world building.  Like in book one, her journey challenges her physically, mentally, and emotionally and she is forced to take on challenges above her skill set and needs to survive them.  One of the things I really like about Rae Carson’s writing is that she not only challenges her characters, but she allows them to struggle.  Elisa doesn’t overcome her obstacles lightly – there are consequences to her actions and she often comes out of scrapes with injuries.  Even the magic has consequences here, which as a fantasy reader is so important to me and is becoming more and more difficult to find.

If you haven’t already gathered this from raving reviews of Walk on Earth a Stranger and Like a River GloriousI adore Rae Carson’s writing and this year she’s shot to the top of my favorite authors list.  Her ability to take tired worlds and stories and make them fresh without falling into systematic traps is simple wonderful.

I’m struggling to find something to criticize about The Crown of Embers.  I thought the twists were good – maybe not surprising, but completely satisfying.  The writing was stellar, the character growth was steady and believable not only for Elisa, but for Mara and Hector and characters around her.  The romance may have felt a little instalove-esque, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing or inaccurate.  For one, Elisa turns seventeen at the beginning of this book.  She’s young and has had so much pain and instability.  The emotional attachments she makes… made a lot of sense to me, and I sense that it will be a driving factor in the ongoing series rather than a tryst that distracts from the plot.  The speed of the developing romance may irk some, which is why I mention it.  For my part, though, I thought it was fine.

All in all, The Crown of Embers was a fantastic second book in the series.  I liked it better than The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I’m so excited to have now TWO of Rae Carson’s series that I’m reading, because I would read her grocery list honestly, I just love her characters, story structure, and world building so much.  If you are a fan of popular fantasy series like the Grishaverse and Throne of Glass, this series is fantastic.  Lighter on the romance, but with another impressive, strong, and flawed protagonist who’s bound to take her world by storm.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

5 Star Rating


To what lengths would you go to protect your kingdom?  Would you be willing to sacrifice yourself?  Or those you love?  Those are some choices Elisa must face in this series, and I’d love to hear your take in the comments!

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2 responses to “The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

    • Amber

      I think while this series falls into high fantasy because of the type of world building… there’s something about Rae Carson’s writing where she does a really good job subtly relaying information rather than exhaustive info dumps. I think high fantasy gets woven in a bit too closely with epic fantasy (Tolkien, Sanderson, Rothfuss, etc.). 🙂