Review: The Kings Guard (Fire & Thorns #0.7) by Rae Carson

Title: The King’s Guard
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 7/30/13
Length:   98 Pages
Series:  The Girl of Fire and Thorns #0.7

Overview

Hector of Ventierra is the youngest commander of the Royal Guard in his kingdom’s history. But before he was lord commander, he was a lowly squire. In this short fantasy novella, set in the world of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson introduces readers to Hector before he became the man Queen Elisa fell in love with. The King’s Guard also includes a teaser chapter for The Bitter Kingdom, the conclusion to the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

At fifteen years old, Hector is the youngest squire in the most elite military force in the country. And his first day is disastrous. Everyone assumes the only reason he was recruited is his close personal association with King Alejandro, not because he’s really earned it.

But Alejandro needs Hector for a secret mission, one that gives him the chance to prove to everyone—including himself—that he is worthy to be a Royal Guard. Hector must break into the ancient Fortress of Wind to retrieve something so important that the kingdom’s future depends on it. What Hector finds in the fortress will stretch his bond of friendship with his king near to breaking. And it will prepare him to become the fearsome warrior and lord commander Elisa will never let go.

My Thoughts

We’ve come to love and adore Hector through what we’ve seen in the main series that it’s really nice to see how he got his start, and how the friendships between him and his guards really took shape.  There was a bit of a teaser that he started out working for the king and Alejandro in a different capacity but it’s nice to see how that progressed into being leader of the Royal Guard.

What we get here is the point in time where Hector starts as a recruit for the guards – and how everyone knows that he’s probably too young and inexperienced to make the guards, but that he’s been shown favor by the kind and the royals and everyone resents that.

It’s not just the tale of being a recruit, but there’s also the piece of the story that we get when Rausora is pregnant and quite sick with the royal heir.  We know how that all ends up, but there’s actually a twist to the story that we didn’t quite get in the main series and it gives an interesting context to how things actually shaped up (that no one still knows about).

Hector is given a secret task and a chance to prove himself and that’s exactly what he does.  while the current head of the guards tries to muck it up for him, and people are out to murder him, well, we still get to see how he’s able to overcome and his natural ability to be a leader even at 15 is something to be impressed by.  All in all, a nice way to get to know him before Hector was the authority that we’ve come to love.  Enjoy!

Review: The Shattered Mountain (Fire & Thorns #0.6) by Rae Carson

Title: The Shattered Mountain
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 3/26/13
Length:   85 Pages
Series:  The Girl of Fire and Thorns #0.6

Overview

A short digital-only novella set in the world of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. While Princess Elisa was being forced across the desert by a band of rebel kidnappers, her future handmaiden, Mara, was fighting for survival as enemy sorcerers decimated the countryside. This is Mara’s story.

My Thoughts
Mara has long since been a key character in the entire series and it’s her turn to have a novella – to give us a sense of where her story began and how strong she truly is.  We knew her story before this novella – about how she and a boy named Julio had fallen in love and how she had plans to leave her village to be with him, but of course that all goes awry when the Inviernos come and attack her village.  So this is the story of her escape with a group of children and how they find the rebells, Elisa and get on the road to recovery.
It’s a nice novella since we get to see that Mara is strong in her own right – she’s smart and positive and motivating, yet she’s human and scared and doubts herself at every turn.  She’s got a skillset that proves itself to be incredibly helpful in this story and rolls over into how she aids Elisa throughout the trilogy.
There’s not much more depth to this though – as expected in an 80 page book, but at least you start to see how strong and tough she is which helps her weather what comes for her in the trilogy.  Enjoy!

Review: The Shadow Cats (The Girl of Fire and Thorns #0.5) by Rae Carson

Title: The Shadow Cats
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher/Year:  harper Collins 7/17/12
Length:   73 Pages
Series:  The Girl of Fire and Thorns #0.5

Overview

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. And it was not Alodia.

Alodia is the crown princess of the realm. The sister who knows how to rule, the one who is constantly reminded that she has not been marked for a grand destiny. But Alodia has plans, and she will be the greatest queen her people have ever known. So she travels—with her hopeless, naive, chosen sister—to a distant part of their land, to begin to secure her supporters. This region needs its princesses, for it is plagued with a curse; the crops don’t grow, spring doesn’t arrive, and a fierce jaguar stalks in the shadows, leaving behind only empty homes splashed with blood. If Alodia can save them, no one will be able to deny her strength and her sovereignty.

But what she discovers could change the fate of her kingdom, if not the entire world. And it will most certainly change her opinion of her younger sister.

My Thoughts

Well, too bad i didn’t realize that this was a prequel before i read the series although i’m not sure that it matters much to be honest.  What we have here is a quick novella giving us a glimpse into how it was determined that Elisa should marry Alejandro.   From the first book in the series we learned that Alodio the elder sister was the one destined for greatness in terms of politics in the royal family.  She’s beautiful and has been taught to run the kingdom from a young age, and that’s part of the plan that leads us into this novella.

Alodia has the best of intentions, trying to right some of the things that her father has done in neglecting the outer territories and she’s setting out to make things right and forming allies.  Elisa accompanies her and of course we get the sense that there’s not much that impresses Alodia about her sister.  What’s nice here is that we start to see the personality come out a bit in Elisa and we see that she’s strong and intelligent and once given a moment to prove that she’s got logical thoughts, ideas of grandeur are in her future.

This is both a set up for what we see in book one but also a hint at more than what we’ve really seen in the bigger series about Alodia’s motivations and what is really going on in her head.  She’s given more of a human side in this book and i think that we needed to see the sensitive side of her to really understand why she’s so cold and tough throughout the trilogy.  enjoy!

Review: The Bitter Kingdom (The Girl of Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson

Title: The Bitter Kingdom
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher/Year:  harper Collins 8/26/14
Length:   448 Pages
Series:  The Girl of Fire and Thorns #3

Overview

In the deeply satisfying conclusion to the bestselling Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen Elisa travels into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion—a champion to those who have hated her most. Riveting, surprising, and achingly romantic, Rae Carson has spun a bold and powerful conclusion to her extraordinary trilogy.

My Thoughts

This finale of the trilogy gives us the story in 4 parts – each of them showing us a different stage in the end game here of freedom and happiness.  Elisa has the world on her shoulders – she’s got no choice but to try to find the answers to everyone’s questions – what she’s supposed to accomplish, how to make her land safe, how to be with the people she loves and how to secure a future for the world.  So much for a seventeen year old girl to accomplish right?

Throughout this 4 part journey we are taken across a variety of lands, learning to trust people that she’s not 100% sold on, and showing others that they have to question what they have known all their lives if they want to take risks and be successful.

What our author does a great job of here is weaving in existing characters to the plot while introducing new ones that really make a strong impact in unexpected ways.  Elisa finds herself being forced into considering marriage for the best intentions of Joya D’Arena yet she doesn’t really want that and everyone that comes to her has their own motivation.  She’s got her eye on someone else yet she’s afraid to admit it.  Then there’s the fact that she’s still being undermined at every turn from all of the people who were in place before Alejandro died.  They feel entitled and will be treasonous if it means that they get more power.

That leads to the journey that we go on with them.  Elisa sets plans in motions, trying to learn more about her power in the Godstone, trying to find the zafira which powers all the animagi with their stones, and i think that what we learn here is that when you rely on something so much, you forget that you really are powerful in yourself.

The remaining sections in this story takes us across lands where treaties are formed amongst Elisa’s sister Alodia and Cosme – they prove to be more valuable yet potentially less trusting than we thought.  The Inviernos have more secrets than we knew about – and their heritage starts to play an even bigger role in this story.  We learn to rely on one of their own for both knowledge and help – friendship and trust.

So all in all, where we are left at the end of this final installment is a place where we have hope – yet we are mourning because some of the most important and key places throughout the series are no longer with us.  While Elisa was successful in some of her endeavors, she has found herself quite unsuccessful in others and in a place where she never expected herself to be.  What the future holds is a big question that we’ll never get answered.  Enjoy!

Review: The Crown of Embers (Girl of Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson

Title: The Crown of Fire and Embers
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher/Year:  harper Collins 8/27/13
Length:   297 Pages
Series:  The Girl of Fire and Thorns #2

Overview

The second book in Rae Carson’s award-winning The Girl of Fire and Thorns fantasy trilogy, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones and Kristin Cashore. Tamora Pierce called the first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, “A unique and engrossing read!” A seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

In The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa won the war. She saved her kingdom. But no one prepared her for how hard it is to recover from a battle, or to rule a people who still don’t trust her. She’s still fighting—against assassination attempts and more—and her enemies lie both outside her court and within it. So Elisa will cross the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. With her go a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with.

My Thoughts

While this series reminds me of several others that i’ve read, I’m still enjoying it quite a bit.  We have the continuation of Elisa’s journey – of the life that she’s found herself living now – where she’s the Queen and bearer of the Godstone, and the only one who can hope to make right all the troubles in the world.  Lots for a seventeen year old girl to be responsible for right?  Add in deceit, romance and lost friendships and you have quite the story.

We left off book one where Elisa was now that Queen of Joya D’Arena, her husband Alejandro was killed by the Animagi and she’s left to sort out what that means for herself and for the kingdom.  Elisa’s proven herself to be quite strong and capable so that’s where she’s starting things off.  She’s being led by those who think that they have more power than her though in the kingdom and that means that she has to prove herself worthy, while also trying to defend her people from the Inviernos – a people who were likely the first on the earth and have been trying to take back power and land.

This is an exhausting journey that we’re on, and we see the reappearances of several of the main characters from book one.  Cosme is now a Queen as you’ll recall from the first book, and she sends a delegation to Elisa and we see that they become incredibly valuable, especially when Elisa’s life is in danger time after time.  We also see Belen the traitor come back into the mix and his story gets more complicated each day.  We still don;t know if he can be trusted and that’s a big piece of this story.

The other plot lines are even better.  There’s a romance and a true love blooming for Elisa with someone who she’s not quite sure returns those feelings, and the same person that is perhaps being linked to her sister now in the hopes of another strong political bond.

If that weren’t enough, our author throws in another story line where we are learning more and more about teachings that were banned that may hold the secret to a lot of what everyone’s been fighting for.  So that means that Elisa and her crew are off on a search for a mythical land and power source in the hopes that they will come out on top.

Where we are left a t the end of this second book is a place where the friends are all split again – some by their own means and some were kidnapped.  We don’t know where things will end up, who’s going to be a true ally and who’s going to prove to be working for their own motivations.  We just know that Elisa must succeed or there will be nothing left for anyone to fight for.  So that means…..we have to move onto book 3 and see what comes of it all.  enjoy!

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Girl of Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson

Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher/Year:  HarperCollins 8/21/12
Length:   320 Pages
Series:  Girl of Fire and Torns #1

Overview

The first book in the acclaimed and award-winning New York Times bestselling trilogy. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a remarkable novel full of adventure, sorcery, heartbreak, and power.

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. 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.

My Thoughts

Well, the summary above sort of gives you a sense of what this story is about, but really doesn’t give you at all the full picture of the journey that we’re about to embark on.  Yes Elisa is the second sister, the one who’s not beautiful in a standard sense (she’s fuller figured) and her older sister is the one being groomed to be queen, but Elisa is the bearer of the Godstone for the century and we get to see what that means for her since there are prophesies about what the bearer is supposed to do.  No one has truly seen the greatness completed aside from a few great tasks, so Elisa feels like she’s unworthy all around.  When she’s married off to the king of the largest domain, her sister gives her some great advice to act as the queen that she can be and everyone will follow.

So what we get is a coming of age story here of Elisa and what it means for Elisa to see her true potential both in herself and as someone who can lead others.  She’s hoping for a friendship with her new husband but he decides to keep her a secret to his people while also keeping his mistress, and that doesn’t bode well for a healthy relationship.  it’s only when Elisa is kidnapped after some discover that she’s got the Godstone that the story truly takes shape.

Elisa finds herself with a clan of travelers led by the ‘maid’ Cosme – and while trying to survive the desert with them, she not only sheds weight and becomes the lean beautiful one, she learns about herself in ways that she never knew, and that means that her future is completely open.

She’s poised to be great in the face of war, if only she understood what her future was supposed to be.  She’s devout, studying the writings of the past over and over again, and even gets her hands on some that her country has kept a secret from her which truly guides her down her path to success.  It’s nice to see that she’s open to putting the puzzle together of what she should be able to do, and realizes at the same time that she can’t do it alone.

Of course as we have come to expect in these types of books, there is war – there are people who use magic and those who use fire and weapons to overpower nations who have what they want.  we see that alliances were formed out of the wrong intentions and when we find out who’s lied to whom, it makes us really second guess who we can trust in this story.

The question that we have throughout this first installment is whether Elisa is strong enough and cunning enough to help save her ‘husband’s’ country – and if she even wants to.  She’s made sound and strong friendships with those who may not be on his side and she has started to realize that maybe there’s love elsewhere that she should be focused on.

All in all a great start to this series – i’m not entirely sure where it can go though given that we got a lot of closure in this first book, but i think that i’m going to continue on and see what comes next.  Enjoy!