I just cannot rave enough about a recent fantasy trilogy I completed. But to be honest, I almost didn't read it.
Rae Carson's debut, THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS not long after it came out--and I made a point to nab a signed hardback. Unfortunately, I put it quickly back down. It wasn't what I expected, first of all (which is absolutely not the fault of the book), but I also found it a little confusing in the start. I think it was the names. I have a weird thing when I read: if I cannot pronounce the name of a character, I cannot keep reading until I figure it out. This has often put a damper on my fantasy reads, and I flat-out refuse to read a book where the names have more apostrophes and dashes than letters.
THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS is not that kind of book. It does, however, have a very distinct non-Western feel to it. There are deserts, and the dishes served seem to be Latin American inspired, a lovely and refreshing blend of influences that I really liked. But one of the important characters in the book--and one mentioned in chapter one--is Ximena. And I just could not figure out how to pronounce the name. Every time I saw it, I stopped reading. And, sadly, this made me put the book down for a bit.
I did (obviously) pick it back up. I wanted to read this story, and so many of my friends recommended it to me, but I just couldn't fall into the world. But I happened to have an extra Audible credit, and I got THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS as an audio book.
And very soon after I started listening, I could not listen fast enough. I heard about half of it, and fell 100% into the world. The names no longer mattered (although I was glad to know that Ximena is pronounced she-men-ah, and Humberto has a silent "h"). I was utterly enraptured in the story. And after the big twist at the end of the first book happened, I got so frustrated that I wasn't getting the story fast enough that I bought an e-book so I could speed-read to the end.
That's right. I bought three different versions of the same book.
After that, I quickly nabbed the sequel, THE CROWN OF EMBERS and devoured it. I again bought two versions--hardback and audio book--but the audio book, while it was narrated beautifully, wasn't fast enough, so I sped through the print book as quickly as I could read. I started it on a plane to a book retreat, and was so caught up in the story that I actually snuck away from the retreat to finish reading!
Of course, I immediately started begging for the last book of the trilogy, THE BITTER KINGDOM. But I have to admit, I had some fears. I was so caught up in the story of Elisa and the kingdoms of her world--and whether or not Elisa would survive her trials (and if she did, would her love interest?)--all in all, I was a nervous wreck. I had so so much hope for this final volume...I was legitimately concerned that I had so many expectations, there's no way anyone could write the book I wanted.
I was wrong.
THE BITTER KINGDOM is the perfect end of the series. It's brilliant. I read it all in a 24 hour period--I started at night, stayed up until nearly 4am, and then finished as soon as I woke up the next morning.
It answered every question I had. It fulfilled every promise the first two books made. It was creative and inventive and utterly addictive. I love this trilogy so much that I didn't want it to end--but when it did, I was left feeling as if everything was just...right...for the characters. They're not 100% happy--nothing is perfect. But the end these characters faced was the right end for them.
In the end, I was very happy to give THE BITTER KINGDOM my official recommendation: “The perfect conclusion to one of the most brilliant modern YA fantasies on the market today. Readers will love this whole series, and while I didn’t want to leave Elisa’s world, The Bitter Kingdom hits all the right notes. This is YA fantasy as it should be.”
Note: THE BITTER KINGDOM won't be released until August. Sorry!
I really encourage everyone to read this wonderful series. And if there is a book out there that you're struggling with, try it in a different format. You just might find yourself hopelessly addicted to a whole new world!