There is an international giveaway for this book and three others here:http://www.bibliopunkk.blogspot.com/2013/05/mayweek-giveaway-7-rae-carson-trilogy.htmlMultiple entries encouraged. Ends 6/12/13. Come enter!!!-----------------------The Crown of Embers is the second book in the Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson. I have had a copy of the book forever but I only got in the mood to read it in the last week. To get back into the series I read the two novellas The Shadow Cats and The Shattered Mountain, which are available in e-book format only. The two served as a good reminder of what was going on in the world as well as the tone of Carson's novels. I'm glad I thought to download those ahead of time. In The Crown of Embers Elisa has become the triumphant victor. She now rules after a successful war campaign, but her troubles are far from over. Elisa doesn't understand the terrifying power that is growing inside of her. It is so different from the resident warmth of the Godstone embedded in her navel. Since she is the Queen her enemies have grown in numbers. A decoy must be planted to prevent assassination and Elisa has new responsibilities, including channeling her own growing power. She embarks on a quest to seek out a source that would help her control her abilities taking with her a warrior, her lady in waiting, a former enemy, and her loyal captain of the guards, Hector. I'll admit, the beginning of the book seemed long to me. I loved being back in this world but the pacing was rough in the first third. I'm sure that would have been minimized had I read this book just after reading its predecessor The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Much of it was tension build up, granted, however it worked in reverse for me. I liked it, so I kept going. It was just, well... slow.However, once the quest began I was hooked and I couldn't put this book down. So there's that.Elisa is a likable heroine. She is fallible and flawed and this makes her a delight to read. She doesn't necessarily make the smartest choices. She rules with her heart rather than her head. Because of this she gets into a lot of situations that might be otherwise prevented. And I like her for that. Her sense of self-worth is also endearing. In the first book Elisa was lazy and overweight, or as one character so kindly puts it in this book "portly and unattractive". By the end of the book she slimmed up a little, but I get the impression that she is still curvy and healthy. Her self esteem suffers from the occasional bout of unworthy moments that lends credulity to her age. She's seventeen and susceptible to the normal highs and lows of a teenager's moods. And I find her that much more real because of her whims. Carson did something amazing in the first book concerning the love interests - something that is rarely seen in YA. In this book the love interest is consistent and grounding, an ideal match. When he was first introduced in book one I said to myself "Oh, she's going to fall in love with him." In this book she seems to be heading in that direction. I appreciate that Carson wound the story around to him. It makes the tale that much richer, and believable. True love always comes from the strangest places, and Elisa's tale reveals the twists and turns beautifully.And the ending... wow, that ending! I'm so glad that I waited to have access to book three before reading this one. It's more than a cliff hanger... it's falling from the edge and catching yourself 50 feet below. By your fingernail. Yeah... it's that good. I said it. And I'll own that statement.Because Carson drew together the ending so fine I will give it 5 out of 5 stars, despite my early misgiving in the beginning third. I'm sure it's just me.