Review posted July 10, 2013.
Greenwillow Books, 2012. 410 pages.
The Crown of Embers is the sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and yes, you should read the earlier book first.
This is definitely a continuation and not a completion of the story. The second volume ends with much more of a cliffhanger than the first.
Elisa, still the bearer of the Godstone, is now queen of her dead husband's people, as well as being a war hero. But she harnessed her Godstone's power in a one-time event, and is dismayed when Inviernos come after her again. This volume involves a quest to the source of power as well as trying to become a good queen and establishing herself among the political powers.
Now, I think I'm still in judging mode from the Cybils panel, because this time it was harder for me not to notice little things I didn't like. I have a horrible bias against novels written in present tense (I know it's not fair, but I can't seem to stop disliking it), and the present tense of this novel did consistently annoy me. I thought that Elisa as narrator tends to tell us way too much about her emotions and feelings, and there were some definite internal logic problems with the world-building that I would have gone into in detail about if this book had been in my group.
But that's enough! I did keep reading, and I did enjoy this book. The fact is, I do want to know what happens to Elisa. And the romance? Exquisite. I've always loved slow-burning romance and books that show friendship blossoming into love, and this book achieves that. As a bonus, we already saw Elisa in love in the last book, with a tragic ending. It's rather refreshing to have the author of a romance not claiming that Elisa has "one true love," and must be miserable without it.
So I wouldn't give this to readers who love intricate world-building, but I will happily recommend it as wonderful slow-simmering romance. And I am going to be first in line to read the third volume.