The Bitter Kingdom | Rae Carson | Book Review

Do you ever delay gratification with a book? I mean, let’s say you feel like you have been waiting forever for a sequel to come into your hot little hands and you finally get it several months ahead of the publishing date, but you just wait because you desperately do not want the story to end, you want to pretend the characters go on and on and on in their lives with adventures and romance and magic? Friends, I had Rae Carson’s The Bitter Kingdom in my hot little hands in March. I held off on reading it until May, just before BEA. On the one hand, I am so angry with myself for holding off so long finishing Elisa’s journey. On the other hand there comes the realization that you can only read a book for the very first time once and I am thrilled that I chose the best possible time to read The Bitter Kingdom, a few weeks before BEA. I know this review is a bit more subdued to start than my usual flaily armed reviews, but I am feeling somber and sad that a series I’ve been fangirling and pushing my friends to read is over. Rae Carson certainly gives Elisa one hell of a sendoff though.

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson | Good Books And Good Wine

Remember how at the end of Crown Of Embers, Hector got kidnapped by the Inviernos? Okay, so in the beginning of The Bitter Kingdom, Elisa is freaking pissed. Y’all, do not mess with pissed off women. She is determined to bring Hector back. His kidnappers will find that there will be hell for them to pay. Elisa assembles a team to go beyond enemy lines to fetch Hector – including Storm, the Invierno she went on that whole godstone quest with. There’s this mistrust there with Storm, but it turns out he is a pretty competent guide! ALSO! There are new characters, including a small child who is not at all annoying but will totally melt your heart. AND HORSES! Basically, all my check boxes of things that I like are ticked. Also, The Bitter Kingdom is unique from the previous two books because alternating with Elisa’s narration is Hector’s narration. I am not sure if this is a new trend (see: Allegiant) but I do not mind it at all.If you love books where it’s the journey that is important, you will love reading about Elisa’s final and most important quest.

Queen Elisa is totally my homegirl. Seriously, if I was a fictional character in one of these books, I would totally take up a sword for her, that is how awesome she is. Are you pro character growth? Are you pro characters who do not look like Barbie dolls? Are you pro characters who wear the mantle of power with grace? Do you like characters that fight using their brain power more than using their brawn? Obviously you do, otherwise you would not be reading a review of The Bitter Kingdom because you would have given up on Carson’s super legit fantasy trilogy already. You guys, this book dials up the awesome when it comes to Elisa’s character and I am snapping my fingers saying things like you go girl, because when I get excited, I start speaking in 1990s dialogue. I just, ugh, she has come such a long way and I want to give her a handshake and a hug and say, you did it my friend, now it is time to heal.

For once, I totally do not feel like a weirdo saying THIS CHARACTER IS SWOONWORTHY, especially because I do when the character acts kind of a like a giant douche. Friends and compadres, my fellow book lovers in arms, Hector is not ever a douchebag in The Bitter Kingdom. He’s actual the sort of love interest that I am like HELL YES BRING THE SWOONS. And, yo, the swoons have been brought. Also, I bet you are like hmmm, I wonder how many times she can say swoons in this one paragraph, I am sure if you were taking a shot for every time I said swoons or some form of the word, you would be drunk by now. I am okay with that. Here’s the thing that I love about Hector, he is a bit macho, yes, but he’s totally not a caveman sort. He’s not that annoying alpha type that won’t let the girl do anything because he has to protect her. Instead, there is this mutual trust and equality between Hector and Elisa. This is the sort of romance I want when I read. Yes, there’s complications, and miscommunication. Yes, it’s not one hundred percent perfect. However, there is give and there is take. What I really love is how Carson shows that you are allowed to love more than one person in your lifetime, maybe your first love is not the person you are meant to be with, but someone who can teach you a lot on the way there. I just felt like the romance in this trilogy was unique in that respect, that Elisa is allowed to have more than one love and that they are both legitimate, but there isn’t a love triangle between her first love and Hector. I love that. Finally, there’s totally a reason for the #goodguyHector hashtag, READ THE BITTER KINGDOM AND FIND OUT why. Also, swoons.

Because I totally think that The Bitter Kingdom is a book to be savored without spoilers or knowing what is to come I just want to end on a few bullet points to convince you to read it now, because this book is essential to your development as a young adult fantasy fan.

  • The world building is solid – if you read fantasy because you find the sociology of different cultures within fantasy interesting and enjoy reading about fictional cultures and customs, you will be down for this book because you get to find out so much about Invierne and why they seem to have a hate boner for Elisa and her people.
  • As far as young adult romance goes, the swoons that inhabit the pages of this trilogy are among my favorite.
  • Given Carson’s penchant for killing off important characters, you will likely be holding your breath the whole time. That is good.
  • The writing never gets ratchet. I mean, Carson does not take the cheap, easy way. The Bitter Kingdom does not take lessons from the school of purple prose. Instead, each description, each action, each sentence, each word has a purpose.
  • Finally, the ending is perfect. I have zero complaints. There was no point where I turned the last page and stated – where are the rest of the pages, like a certain other dystopian trilogy I read. There is no cliffhanger. Guys, this is one hell of a read and one I cannot recommend enough. If you trust me at all, pick this series up. It is among my favorite series OF ALL TIME, and after reading THE BITTER KINGDOM, it will continue to retain a spot among my favorites.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Other reviews of The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson:

Hobbitsies – “Yes, yes, yes, a million times yes
Pure Imagination – “action packed from page one
Ivy Book Bindings – “damn near perfect

Books by Rae Carson:
The Girl Of Fire And Thorns
The Crown Of Embers

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. OMG!!!! I’m halfway through this book and I’m all over the place. It’s so good!

    I love Elisa! One of my fave YA heroine…

  2. Seems like doing a list as part of your Bitter Kingdom review is a very popular choice! Your’s makes 6 glowing reviews which have use this method (not including my own) and why not? Everyone who has read this series wants the world to know what makes it so awesome:)

    Love Elisa. Love Hector. Love Red. Loved it all 🙂

  3. I delay gratification with a book ALL THE TIME!! Which is why I still haven’t read book 2 in this series! And soooooo many others! I’m not reading your review because it’ll be a while before I can read book 3 (though just heard it’s being shipped as we speak, yay!!) but again, have to thank you April for getting me onto this series! 🙂

  4. I put off reading my ARC because I didn’t want the series to end, but what an ending! It was an amazing book. I really want Mula (Red) to have her own series.

  5. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does the delayed gratification thing!!! People look at me like I’m crazy when I say I do this but it obviously makes sense. Who wants their favorite series to end?!? So what if it makes me sound a little bit like a person who hoards great books…

  6. FINALLY read this book and have just finished writing my review, so I could AT LAST read your review and OMG I AM SO HAPPY THAT YOU SAW AND LOVED THE SAME THINGS THAT I SAW AND LOVED. I agree with and support this review 1000000% and I just love it and you and Carson and everything.


  1. […] “It is among my favorite series OF ALL TIME, and after reading THE BITTER KINGDOM, it will continue to retain a spot among my favorites.” – April @ Good Books and Good Wine […]