After the events of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa is trying to rule her husband’s kingdom but even though she has grown much since she first entered the kingdom, she still faces doubts various political entities. There is also still the concern about a looming war from the bordering kingdom even if she and her friends managed to delay it after the last novel. It doesn’t take long before there are assassination attempts on Elisa’s life. Elisa is worried that she won’t be prepared for any future battles and might not be able to save the kingdom, so she embarks on a quest to an ancient mythical temple to try to find more answers about her status as chosen one and find answers that might allow her to protect her people, and fulfill her destiny. After all, her stone exists so whatever she may have done in the previous novel, she didn’t actually complete her intended fate.
As part of this travel, she brings Hector and the minor hints at romantic tension that existed in the previous novel continue to grow. It’s mostly clouded in a relationship of mutual respect and admiration as Hector was one of the first to notice Elisa’s internal strength, wisdom and compassion. She also brings along an exile from the enemy kingdom, and through reluctant conversations with him, slowly learns a bit more about the people they are facing.
The Bitter Kingdom sees Elisa and her friends head into enemy territory to save one of their own. Elisa faces enemies on all sides, including people that should be her allies. Despite these challenges, she continues to stand by her beliefs. Elisa’s journey to the other side allows her to make huge discoveries about their enemies, and while many of the things they have done are unforgivable, Elisa’s people past has also erased their own evils and what they did that would make their enemies so ruthless and desperate.
She also learns more about the fate of the some of the chosen ones that preceded her, and how erratic the tasks could be, sometimes being seemingly minor tasks that would only show their importance decades or centuries later. In fact, Elisa has seen the connection between some previous bearer’s destinies and actions she has taken thanks to the the paths they set.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the trilogy. Elisa grew from an insecure and shy girl to a heroine who still knows when she needs people. Elisa has a quiet confidence that she has developed over the trilogy but I liked that she never became arrogant; she continued to show compassion, and shows her strength in various conflicts but she also remains true to her roots, and remains a very thoughtful heroine even after she learns to channel her powers. Beyond that, she also has principles which she stands by.
The second novel ended up being a bit of a distraction as her mission does not go as planned but despite that I wouldn’t say it felt like the usual second novel trilogy filler. I think it is because Elisa is a well enough developed character that these novels while plot driven don’t rely entirely on progressing the plot for their charm so learning more about the world was still an engaging read. I also enjoyed how the novel revealed more about how the two kingdoms and people were interconnected and how they had both hurt each other in the past rather than having a black and white history with one clear antagonist.