Book Review: THE BITTER KINGDOM by Rae Carson

the Bitter Kingdom.png

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult (YA in the US)
Star Rating: 5/5 stars
Series: Yes - final book of trilogy



the bitter kingdomElisa, the 17-year-old sorcerer-queen, must travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion – a champion to those who have hated her most.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I found another decent Goodreads review, and I’ll be using it as the backbone.

A stunning conclusion. Wonderfully written. All these plot threads coming together, and surprising answers to questions posed throughout the series.

The twists! Carson continues to undermine tropes, spinning them into her story masterfully.

There are several questions left unanswered, but I like that. It really fits with the refrain the priests often say: the mind of god is a mystery and none can know it. The mythology set up wouldn’t feel right if it was all tied up, half the point is how patchy and convoluted it’s all become.

I loved seeing Invierne because it made them seem more real, less like a nebulous threat.

These are some of the best, tensest chapters in the book – and Elisa really comes into her magic.

The other major reason is Storm. Having him as one of the main supporting cast has been really important, and experiencing his home fills in all sorts of questions about who he is and why.

Storm is such a fun character, haughty and outlandish to Elisa and Hector. He has some great (accidental) comedic moments, but also real heart. The evolution of his and Elisa’s relationship from enemies to reluctant allies to friend is wonderful to see.

I promised in my review of THE CROWN OF EMBERS to talk about Mara and Belen, well, gush. Mara is the best sort of best friend you could ask for. She’s loyal and brave, and almost as practical as Hector. She’s really grown in confidence since FIRE AND THORNS. Belen’s the supporting cast member who’s transformed the most, his betrayal and then desire to redeem himself. He’s so cute with Mara, and the sneaky-spy-friend every queen needs.

Elisa and Hector’s relationship is wonderful as ever. They have everything from the last book to work through, and it feels as organic as before. I loved reading Hector’s point of view – really helps get inside of his head and his voice is very distinct.

It is really a toe-curling romance, and I love the way it ends. If you want a cute couple, look no further. And Hector’s chapters give a new perspective on the world – and Elisa.

Of the two main additions to the cast, Mula/Red is my favourite, mainly because we spend far more time with her and her arc is more obvious. Waterfall doesn’t get that much development, and she’s the most one-dimensional, but we spend hardly any time with her (10 chapters at most), so it’s not too bothersome even if she occasionally comes across as a plot device, a way to achieve x, y and z, as well as adding a bit of tension.

I’m a little sad to be at the end of my re-read, but I’m also so happy I finally read them again. I seriously can’t recommend this series enough.

Read my reviews of other books by Rae Carson

Fire and Thorns (this series):

The Gold Seer Trilogy:


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