Today I am reviewing The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson, which is the third and final book in The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know this is my favorite series of all time with the first book being my favorite. I’ve read this book three times: once in middle school, once in high school, and again in February of this year. I’m going to talk about what I like, what I don’t like, and my overall thoughts. This review will contain spoilers.
In this book, we spend a lot of time following Hector as he’s taken captive and dragged to the city where the Invierno live. The whole time Hector’s thinking about training lessons he can create based on his experiences as a captive. Hector’s the captain of the Royal Guard, so of course he’s thinking about how his captivity can help him improve his soldiers’ training. For example, he has to do a lot of things with his hands tied, so he wants to have training that gets soldiers accustomed to completing tasks with bound hands. I love that, and it feels very in-character for him.
I also love Hector and Elisa’s relationship. Most of the YA books I’ve read have toxic relationships, and I’m so happy this is not one of them. Hector and Elisa are cute together, and reading about them makes me happy. I really like that they get married in the end and have their happy ending.
Another thing I like is one of the characters. I didn’t like him the first two times I read this series, but he’s really grown on me this time. That character is Storm. I don’t know why my feelings toward him have changed so much, but I’ve noticed that in a lot of my recent rereads. In Beyonders, my new favorite character is a character I used to hate. In Harry Potter, I now appreciate a couple of characters I never really cared for before. In The Lord of the Rings, I never really liked Sam until recently. I don’t know how I didn’t realize how important he is until now. My favorite characters have been changing a lot lately, and so I’m not surprised that happened with this trilogy too.
I think one reason I relate to Storm is because he’s an outcast. He isn’t like the other Inviernos, and I’m from a small town with religious and political beliefs that are the polar opposite of my own, so I know what it’s like to be in that kind of position. I like that Elisa manipulates the Inviernos to let Storm continue being an ambassador, so he can be in a place where he’s more comfortable. He chose to be an ambassador in the first place, and I like that Elisa is helping him keep the benefits of that choice he made. As part of being an ambassador, he has to enter an arranged marriage with Elisa’s sister, Juana Alodia. I think that’s really interesting because Storm likes Juana Alodia. I understand why there wasn’t more of their relationship in the trilogy, but I really want to see more of it. I think it would be fun to watch the interactions between them.
The last thing I like about this book is at the end, Elisa says she’s beautiful to the only person who matters. My mind immediately went to Hector, but no, it’s Elisa. The only person who matters is herself, and I love that. We see her struggling with body image all throughout the trilogy. I know she lost some weight in the first book, but she’s still large. She will never be small or skinny. I love that she’s finally made peace with herself in regards to her body image. I haven’t read any other books that deal with issues of body image, so I really like seeing that in this book, and I’m glad Elisa was able to resolve that conflict for herself.
Now onto things I don’t like, and these are mostly small, trivial things that aren’t a big deal. I had this same complaint in The Crown of Embers, and that’s that Belen doesn’t sleep. The book even says he goes days without sleeping. I don’t know how Belen does that. Good for him for pulling it off, but my personal experience with sleep deprivation is that I can’t function, and I will fall asleep the second I’m off my feet. I guess sleep deprivation doesn’t affect Belen in the same way.
The group comes across a young girl who is half Invierno and half not, and her name is Mula, which means mule. The group doesn’t want to call her that with Hector being the most appalled by it, and yet Hector still calls her Mula. That seems out of character to me, and I think there was a way for him to find a way around that. Belen calls her Skinny Girl, which isn’t great but is better than Mula. I think Hector could have come up with something similar even if it’s just “Little Girl” or something.
On the subject of names, I also don’t like that Elisa calls her horse Stupid Girl. I’m pretty sure she does so in an affectionate way, but it comes across as derogatory, and I don’t know why she would do that to her horse. I think something like “Silly Girl” would be better because then it doesn’t seem like Elisa is hating on her horse.
The final thing I’m not a fan of in this book is all the travelling. I know we get a lot of travelling in the other books, but it isn’t as noticeable because there’s a ton of other conflict going on to distract us from the travelling. In this book, there isn’t as much other conflict, so we pay more attention to the travelling. I think those types of scenes were well executed in the first two books, and I was disappointed that that didn’t carry into the third book.
Overall, I really love this book. I like that in the end Elisa brings herself, Cosme, and Juana Alodia together as these powerful female monarchs. I’m glad Elisa and Hector end up together. I’m probably really biased with this trilogy because I read it when I was young, and it holds a lot of nostalgic value for me. I probably overlooked some flaws, so it’s likely not as perfect as I make it out to be. Regardless, I still love this trilogy, and I’m satisfied with the ending.
Have you read this book? What do you think of the ending? If you’ve started the trilogy but haven’t finished it yet, are you interested in finishing it? Let me know in the comments.