I'm really stuck on what to say about this book (this entire series, novellas included). I really would like to just throw a bunch of squeals out there, call it "AWESOME!!!" many times over and just leave it at that, but then I'll feel like I didn't do this series any justice. Then again, that's the only thing I can convey properly right now.
The adventure continues in The Bitter Kingdom where we left off from The Crown of Embers. Hector has been captured in order to force Elisa to willingly travel to Invierne and sacrifice herself to save him. During this time, Elisa's growth is almost exponential from her growth since the previous two books and she pretty much becomes "super queen extreme". And along the way, we get more court intrigue, historical secrets revealed, war, and adventures, adventures, adventures.
And I love me some adventure!
There was plenty of adventuring from the first two books as well:
In The Girl of Fire and Thorns we spend a lot of time traveling the desert, though a lot of time was also spent at the palace.
In The Crown of Embers we spend a lot of time on the vast open waters in the south. But of course, a little too much time had been spent with court intrigue and assassination attempts in the palace.
This time, in The Bitter Kingdom we jump into the adventure almost immediately, traveling east to Invierne and back to Basajuan with constant movement (which was pretty exciting). Elisa and her small crew leave her country of Joya d'Arena and travel through the dangerous Free Cities, enter the wintry mountain passes to arrive at Invierne. And then they turn back around to face the harsh snowy weather of the mountains and end up in even more dangerous mines.
There was just so much more ground covered (literally) than I would have expected. Just the same, the story itself covered so much material that sometimes it was a little hard to keep up with. I'm almost thinking it would have been a good idea to split the book up into two in order to touch base with everything new introduced as well as everything old that needed a proper conclusion.
Nonetheless, I loved this book and this series like a whole new obsession.
It helps a lot that I loved and admired all the characters, even the sometimes annoying (yet also amusing) Red Sparkle Stone--though I must say, she was a fairly unbelievable character who DID act a bit older than her own age and was a pretty convenient problem solving plot device. Otherwise, I liked all the characters, especially of Elisa's group: Belén, Mara, Storm, Hector. Little adventures like these with little groups bring about the most heart-warming camaraderie scenarios, even if they tended to get on each other's nerves and even if Elisa was still their queen and they always had to defer to her. They were always, first and foremost, close friends who relied on each other to survive impossible missions.
Hector and Elisa were a pretty powerful couple and I'm glad there was never any indication of a love triangle between any other character to speak of. It was Hector and Elisa the entire time, though I'm wondering if the kingdom of Joya d'Arena may not have been that ominous third wheel in their relationship. No insta-love and no angsty love triangles to complicate an already complicated story line--there was enough going on in Fire and Thorns already to keep Elisa busy.
Of course, romance wasn't the most forefront priority for our heroine. Despite the fact that she's in love with Hector and would probably do anything to save him, it shows that Elisa still kept her head about her and managed to have a bigger plan to save her kingdom while rescuing her man at the same time. Who says she couldn't do both? It's also telling that the two of them always had the same line of thought--worried for each other's safety, but at the same time seeing the bigger picture for Joya d'Arena.
With some flaws here and there, this book isn't entirely perfect, but it's close enough. I'm at the point where I don't even care if there were a few things that bugged me because I was utterly charmed by the characters, the world, and the story itself! You know that hollow feeling you get after finishing a really good series with the wish that there will be more to come, but knowing that it's all over? Yeah. That's how I'm still feeling, hours after finishing the last book.
I want more. More Elisa, more Hector, more Rosario, more Belén and Mara, some more of Storm, Conde Tristán, Cosmé... I just can't get enough of these characters. And mostly, I kind of hope another series could take place in this same world as well.
Just a small hope, hopefully.