By Rae Carson
Someone within her royal court is sabotaging Queen Elisa, which is not surprising since she only recently took power after the death of her husband. She is young after all, even if she did save the country from destruction. The pressure is mounting by the day, and Elisa feels the weight of it. Her royal advisors want her to remarry a neighboring nobleman to increase the security of the nation, and worse, Invierne sorcerers have appeared within the city walls. Clearly, it is the power of Elisa’s godstone that the enemy seeks, but from where does this power come? In a quest to find the source of the godstone’s power and thus prevent it from falling into enemy hands, Elisa grows into a commanding woman and queen to be reckoned with. Perhaps most importantly, she learns whom she can trust.What is so refreshing about Elisa is the sheer believability of her character. She starts to grow and change in this installment; she matures. She’s still not perfect, she’s not experienced, and she’s not physically strong. Even her godstone, which sets her apart from the masses, isn’t something she controls; in fact, some would say the godstone is simply another outside force that controls her. What Elisa has, however, is street-smarts, wisdom, humility, and faith that her life has a special purpose. What more could a reader want in a protagonist? The action in the story is as entrancing as in book one, even though the country isn’t technically at war. Carson engages us immediately with the intrigue of a possible in-house assassin. And, in a plot device similar to book one, there is the quest; Elisa and a selection of her companions (including Hector) must embark on a journey to find the source of the godstone. Actually, I was glad to see the quest. I was sort of worried at first that we’d be stuck on the castle grounds with Elisa during the whole novel, busily searching through ancient scriptures, looking over our shoulder for a killer and dodging arrows, but alas, no! In fact, the quest introduces a whole new environment and rich scenery that adds to the world building that began in book one. And, for those readers who want to see action of a different kind, fear not. Elisa may have lost Humberto in book one, but her friendship with Hector is growing stronger—she could be falling in love with him—except for the fact that she is queen and he is a commoner, not exactly an ideal choice for king since he has no power or holdings. But she could at least love him and have a companion, no? Does he feel the same for her? A twist at the end is a bit easy to predict, but no worries, it only serves to tease the reader into anticipating what awesome new developments will take place with Queen Elisa in book three, The Bitter Kingdom, releasing in the Fall of this year, and already on my to-order list!