The Crown of Embers: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Crown of Embers: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Thrilling, more mature sequel with new love interest.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A few sailing terms may need extra research. Queen Elisa's self-defense lessons teach readers the basics.

Positive Messages

At the book's center: What makes a good ruler? Is having unlimited supernatural power worth any sacrifice? The power of faith and prayer and how love and prayer together can heal are also explored through the book's fictional religion. On a negative note, despite the fact that the main character, Elisa, is described as dark skinned and possessing more brains than beauty, the book cover depicts her as light skinned and beautiful.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa goes from overweight to a healthier weight. A lot less is made of body image here, though there are mentions that she's not known  around the palace for her beauty (or dancing ability or wardrobe choices). Elisa lacks confidence to govern but grows into a very capable queen who's willing to stand on her own by book's end. Her love interest, Hector, is clearly attracted to Elisa as a smart, strong woman.


An assassin is after Elisa the whole book and nearly kills her once in a bloody stabbing. Those close to her end up with bloody/life-threatening wounds from arrows and burns, both described with some detail (the pulling out of arrows and re-doing of stitches, etc.). A beheading and a man setting himself on fire also include some gory details. There's also a public whipping, a poisoning, some men lost at sea, and mentions of other deaths and fighting injuries, and a town set on fire.


Some passionate kisses lead to a discussion of whether to become lovers. Elisa and attendant Mara take birth control in preparation. Mara tells Elisa about two of her past lovers and how she lost her virginity.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking with dinner and at a ball.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this exciting sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns is slightly more mature. A few violent scenes include gory details (melting flesh when a man sets himself on fire in protest, an arrow being pulled out of someone's back). Queen Elisa discovers two men kissing at a ball, starts taking birth control, and talks about becoming someone's lover. Beyond finding a serious love relationship, Elisa grows up in other profound ways. She explores what it takes to be a good ruler and continues to possess a strong faith in a religion that insists she has been chosen by God.

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What's the story?

Going from desert warrior princess to queen of a large foreign land has been a tough transition for Elisa. It seems the other lords at court are all against her and begging her to marry well. Another war with the mysterious and magical Inviernos is inevitable, and her country is still in shambles from the last one. And then there are the attempts on her life by an unknown assassin. After a near-death experience where she's saved only by her Godstone -- the jewel in her navel that shows her as chosen by God -- Elisa's after anything that can keep her alive ... and her kingdom from collapsing. Obscure prophesy speaks of the zafira: a source of unlimited power hidden in the south islands meant only for God's chosen. Elisa hopes it's her destiny to find it.

Is it any good?

There's nothing at all sluggish or sequel-y about this spiritually bent fantasy-adventure-romance. THE CROWN OF EMBERS throws readers right into burning chaos in the city streets, power grabs in the palace, assassination attempts, and whisperings of powerful prophecies. Best of all, an irresistible (and of course, forbidden) new love interest for Elisa fits neatly in all the intrigue. And that's all before her epic journey even gets started.

Author Rae Carson does a great job juggling her themes for the most part, and just when you think she's getting too soft with her character's romantic yearnings, she spins a crafty cliffhanger.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the book's cover shows Elisa as more beautiful and lighter skinned than how she's described in the book. Why do you think the publisher made that choice? What message does that choice send?

  • What's admirable about Queen Elisa? Would you rather be a brilliant but more homely queen or a beautiful queen who relied on smarter sovereigns to rule?

  • What do you think about what Elisa decided about the zafira. Would you have done the same?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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