The Bitter Kingdom: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Book 3



Powerful Elisa brings trilogy to exciting conclusion.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Elisa's harrowing journey through the snowy mountains teaches a few survival skills, like don't light a fire in a snowed-in cave without maintaining proper ventilation. She also teaches some lessons in the art of diplomacy and negotiation when longtime enemies work toward peace.

Positive messages

Bravery, sacrifice, and doing what it takes to survive are the focus as the main characters travel. How do you get countries that have demonized each other to find common ground? What must each give up for peace? The mystery of faith is also explored; the series' religion is fictional but the ideas are universal.

Positive role models

There are three impressive female rulers in this book: Elisa; her sister, Alodia; and Cosme. Elisa often says to herself in perilous situations, "Don't think. Just do." She conquers fears to protect her kingdom and her loved ones and exhibits impressive negotiation skills to broker peace.


Lots of willing sacrifices with throats slit and one unwilling sacrifice kept chained up, mutilated, and near death. Plenty of skirmishes with daggers, arrows, and swords with occasional gory detail, such as an arrow shaft protruding from a bloody eye socket and talk of a man "twisting and choking on his own blood" after he's killed. Some fights with fire magic end in deaths, a scorched city, and ruined crops. Abuse of a slave girl: hitting and talk of chaining her up. Horses are poisoned and eaten in desperation. One character is tied up and beaten by kidnappers, another falls with injuries bad enough to kill until she seeks magical healing. More near-falls in a cave filled with deadly scorpions. Rats are unleashed on a prisoner. A couple of sad and violent ends for sympathetic characters. Elisa sentences one traitor to hang.


Elisa and Hector have sex while engaged, but there's little detail other than talk that they're giggling over their own awkwardness their first time. So it's not steamy, though they share a number of kisses that are. Elisa mentions that she's taking birth control.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Thick smoke and ale in a bar. Wine is offered with no talk of whether it was consumed.

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.

User reviews

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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.

Families can talk 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.

Book details

Author:Rae Carson
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Greenwillow Books
Publication date:August 27, 2013
Number of pages:448
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Bitter Kingdom: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Book 3 was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Write a user reviewThere aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Special Needs Guide