SPOILERS FOR GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS (like duh)
My head swims, my limbs tingle, and I'm a little bit delighted, a little bit horrified.
I wasn't exactly disappointed but I was definitely expecting something else. Maybe it's because Girl of Fire and Thorns took me by surprise with a strong and sharp second half but this… this felt like it plateaued for me when the zafira storyline got introduced. It was like my interest in the bigger story arc was out of sync with my interest in the protagonists. I was paying attention with one aspect of the story but not how it fits into the puzzle to make sense of it as a whole.
Don't get me wrong, I love the continuity in Elisa's development here, she's no longer the same girl who left her father's home to wed a stranger. And its interesting to witness her take control of all that power and responsibility while trying to remain true to herself. I found her hesitation and struggle to perform her duties in-character and believable for a newly crowned monarch. Especially one who has just recently led a rebellion. Because ruling does require a certain degree of conceit and vanity, and I liked that this paid attention to the minutiae of the repercussions of her ascent to the throne and the events at the end of GoFaT. She just gave a piece of her land to the rebels, there's a lot of disrepair in Brisadulce, her army has been considerably trimmed down, she needs to raise taxes, there's courtly intrigue among members of her Quorum, someone wants to kill her and she needs to get married… among other things.
"You were never, never, going to be just a diversion to me."
He sighs, nodding. "That was unfair of me," he says. "I'm sorr--"
"And you will kiss me again. That and more. Count on it."
Hee. Elisa's been a busy girl, yes.
So there's a lot of moving pieces in the story as it is when the zafira storyline got thrown in the mix. Which led to a quest that I liked for shoving the Elisa-Hector storyline to move along into interesting twists and tangles but as for the quest in itself, it didn't particularly perk my interest (if anything, how that panned out just pissed me off in the end). I found it quite strange actually how there was no hesitation on Elisa's part once she made certain discoveries seeing as she's been wrong so many times about interpreting the scriptures.
Soon as they boarded that ship, this lost a chunk of my attention, because I cannot follow the ship-talk and even before Elisa had that moment of epiphany, the entire quest didn't make much sense to me. So I was only half interested until the last chapter.
One thing I truly appreciate in this series though, is that I get the sense that Elisa's story is well-planned out. The structure of the series do not follow the conventional patterns I've seen in the few books I've read in this genre. I like that characters get discarded and introduced quite randomly, then get developed in a realistic pace. Take Mara, for example, Elisa's second maid who got introduced in the latter half of the first book got better fleshed as a secondary character here. I found that unexpected and refreshing.
And I liked how this borrowed from some actual historical details without compromising its own creativity. I think I shall claim the Invierne Name of Wait for the Risen Sun and Coffee For It Rouses The Best Smiles and Gratitude for my self.
I do love how Elisa is turning out here and Hector fits the honorable hero mold quite charmingly but I felt the fantastical aspect of this series just needs a little bit more… seasoning to make it stick. I have high hopes for Bitter Kingdom what with how things ended here but for a middle book of such an inspired series, this just felt a dash of salt short of being phenomenal.
"And I have me, I will be enough."