A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Bitter Kingdom is the last book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. Readers will need to have read the first two books to keep up with the complex world author Rae Carson builds, filled with magic, a fictitious religion, numerous key characters, and warring kingdoms. Fighting got fierce in the second book, The Crown of Embers, and it stays that way here, with the occasional gory imagery: a scene with throats slit and blood pouring on the ground, a chained and mutilated sacrifice, and skirmishes with arrows protruding from eyes and daggers gutting enemies. Allies suffer many injuries with less description, and two die violently. Other mature content includes an engaged couple having sex, which is barely described, and some smoldering kisses. Queen Elisa is just one of three strong female rulers in this book. All three work for an end to war and the prosperity of the people they rule.
What's the story?
Queen Elisa sees her beloved Hector kidnapped by Inviernos at the end of The Crown of Embers. If she pursues him with an army he'll be killed, so she chooses three friends and skilled fighters, steals horses from a village, and sets off into the mountains toward Invierno. As they come to Hector's rescue, Elisa suddenly feels she can't turn back, even though she's needed in her own country to overthrow the man who's usurped her thrown. With practice, she's harnessing the magical power of the stone in her navel. She knows it's somehow tied to a power source in Invierno that's dying, and once it's gone, their fire-wielding sorcerers will attack her country again. But by walking straight into the capital, is Elisa really bargaining for peace or for her life?
Is it any good?
The summary above gets readers only to Part 2 of 4: We have the journey (too long), the rescue (quick and bloody), and the walk right into enemy hands (nail-biting and thrilling). Then we have another journey; it's twice as long as the first, or maybe it just feels that way. Readers will be antsy to get out of those caves, brush the scorpions off, and get back to Elisa's mysterious Godstone, her crazy-strong magical powers, and all the war games back home. Seeing her in control, wielding fire and political superiority, brings the trilogy and THE BITTER KINGDOM to an exciting and satisfying conclusion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. What appeals to you most about it -- the adventure, romance, magic, strong characters, or all of the above? How does it compare with other fantasy series you've read?
What's the purpose of Elisa's Godstone in the end? How does she feel about it? What powers does she possess that aren't magical?
What does Elisa learn about faith in this book? How is her faith God (as she sees God in her religion) challenged? Those in religious households can take this discussion to a deeper level.
- Author: Rae Carson
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books
- Publication date: August 27, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 448
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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