A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ember Queen is the third and final book in the Ash Princess fantasy series for mature teen readers. Expect many deaths as the main character, 17-year-old Queen Theodosia (Theo), tries to take back her kingdom from those who enslaved and tortured her people for a decade. Most bloodshed is at a distance, with the help of fire and other magic, but there are a few deaths up close, including a slit throat, a couple of daggers to the gut and heart, poisonings, and drownings. There's much talk of torture that characters close to Theo endure -- one man had his eye plucked out. Other mature content includes frequent wine drinking, the rare swear word ("ass," "bitch," "bastards"), and one scene of sex that's not described beyond kissing, undressing, and consenting. The desire for freedom from oppression drives Theo and the whole story. The cost of that freedom is often weighed: How many is too many to sacrifice for the cause? Theo pulls herself out of despair over loss and indecision with the help of her steadfast and brave friends.
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What's the story?
In EMBER QUEEN, Queen Theodosia (Theo) exits the fire mine changed. She has more power to control fire after withstanding weeks of mental trials that have killed many in the mines. She'll need the extra magical strength to face Cress again, the Kaiserin and captor of her people who was made more powerful from a poisoning gone very wrong. As Theo and her advisers devise their next move to free more mines and build their forces, Theo begins to have intensely vivid dreams where Cress speaks to her. Theo is convinced there's a magical connection between them, one forged from the poison in their blood, and one that could be very dangerous if Cress finds out that she is still alive.
Is it any good?
This finale stays on a low burner for the first half as characters wallow in doubt and indecision, then heats up to a satisfying storm-the-castle, defeat-the-villain finish. To be fair, much needs to be set up before the castle storming can begin, much of it intriguing. Theo's link to Cress in dreams adds a creepy layer and keeps readers in touch with Cress' diabolical plans: She forms the most Goth girl group ever. And while it seems to take forever for Soren, the love interest, to come back into the story, he does in dramatic fashion. Unfortunately, amid these developments, readers will have to sit through meetings in tents where no one agrees where to attack next and long moments of soul searching from Theo about all her failings and bad decisions thus far. These sections could have been cut down significantly or woven more into the action.
Still, the last 100 pages roll along quickly, especially because the stakes are so high. Losing the war is not an option when a whole people will suffer in slavery, and winning with so few troops and some half-baked plans always makes for a compelling underdog tale.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about justice in Ember Queen. What does Theo want to do with the Kalovaxians when the war is over? What do her advisers think?
How does Theo see Cress? Is Cress a typical villain? How does their relationship unfold? Why do you think it goes that way?
What do you think of how this finale ends? Is it satisfying? Would you read more in a spin-off series? Who do you think it would feature?
- Author: Laura Sebastian
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Pirates
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication date: February 4, 2020
- Number of pages: 480
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 27, 2020
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