Disclaimer: As the last book in a series, there are bound to be some spoilers. While I’ll strive to be as spoiler free as possible (and will reveal no spoilers about The Bitter Kingdom itself), there may be some spoilery bits about Girl of Fire and Thorn and Crown of Embers. So, if spoilers drive you as insane as they do me, I’d recommend waiting to read this review until your read the rest of the series. =)
Wow, just wow. Where do I even begin!? I knew that I should expect Rae’s typical awesome, but this…this was just beyond anything I could have hoped for. When I began reading, I had ideas…theories…predictions if you will, of where Rae would take the story. While I was spot on with some of them, she has once again blown my mind and I could not be happier.
As you’ll remember, at the end of Crown of Embers, Hector has been taken hostage by the Iviernos in an attempt to lure Elisa into Ivierne and Joya d’Arena is on the brink of civil war. The Bitter Kingdom picks up pretty much immediately after these events with Elisa and her band on a quest to rescue Hector and find out what the Iviernos are up to.
I loved the epic nature of this series and yet the simple lessons she teaches her characters, especially Elisa. There are layers upon layers of nuance and metaphor all leading to the same theme: Elisa is enough on her own. She is on a journey to accept herself as she is. It’s a beautiful lesson that every girl needs to learn. Beyond this, we also get all of our questions answered! I love it when a series ends with everything tied up neatly, but without it feeling like it’s been forced. Everything resolves naturally and skillfully.
Just as in Girl of Fire and Thorns and Crown of Embers, Rae’s character and world-building continues to amaze. You would think that by book three, the world’s been built but no, Carson continues to add detail and imagery that brings this gorgeously vivid landscape to life. Her secondary characters are even more complex and exquisitely real in this final book, adding a depth to this series that is rare. The friendship between Mara and Elisa especially impressed me. Strong female friendships are so rarely done well, and this particular relationship was perfect. The sheer epicness of the plot and details of the backdrop are so essential to the overall journey that Rae Carson has taken her characters on.
The romance was as beautiful and perfect as ever. I loved the slow buildup throughout the whole series as opposed to the typical “get together in book one, fight or get separated or introduce love triangle through book 2 and most of 3, and finally have HEA in book 3” drama. Don’t get me wrong, there is drama, but it is natural and flows with the story. The plot moves along with the romance, rather than being moved by the romance. And I’m sorry, but Hector…that man is amazing. We even get some scenes from his perspective which is AWESOME!!! He and Elisa have come a long way from the capable and aloof Captain of the Guard and the bumbling, fat, insecure Princess. They are more like equals now just as they always needed to be.
Overall, The Bitter Kingdom was everything I hoped for and a whole list of things I didn’t know to hope for. From enchanting romance to epic quests and adventure, it has it all. Once again, Rae Carson has delivered a story that will stick with me forever.