On the surface, there is a lot to like about The Crown of Embers. The writing flows nicely, the book is not as lengthy as most fantasy novels, and the main character undergoes an identity crisis of sorts, struggling to reconcile the things she desires most with her duties as Queen and the bearer of the Godstone.
What went wrong? A lot.
One issue is that the author attempts to create an epic forbidden romance - and fails. The reasons Hector and Elisa cannot be together are weak. Elisa is propositioned to create a marriage alliance between Hector and her sister, Alodia, and believes she must follow through with this arrangement. Why is it that Hector is worthy enough to be betrothed to a future Queen, but not his own Queen? Hector just happens to be the Captain of the Guard, a nobleman, and a flippin' war hero, but it would be "foolish" (Elisa's words) to marry him because he is devoted to her and she has his unfailing support.
Seriously. Get with the program, Elisa. For someone who saved an entire kingdom and is apparently chosen by God to achieve some greater purpose, she is supremely naive and dim-witted. And Hector is not far behind her. The author tries too hard to create a problem when one does not exist. It's completely illogical to the story and to who these characters are.
There's also the not so small matter of finding zafira. Elisa and her most trusted allies go on an undercover mission to locate this place so that Elisa may wield power strong enough to defeat Invierne. However, she rejects the power once she finds it. Having Elisa flirt with darkness and making her the most powerful person in the kingdom would give the story some much needed complexity, but Elisa has a change of heart and chooses to use the power afforded to her as queen to win over her people and defeat her enemies. Perhaps the author stayed true to Elisa's character, but it was an unwise move in terms of storytelling.
While the story contains some enjoyable moments, it pales in comparison to other works in the same genre. If you want to read an insanely awesome fantasy series, I suggest picking up The Lumatere Chronicles (Melina Marchetta), The Attolia Series (Megan Whalen Turner), Eona (Alison Goodman), Graceling (Kristin Cashore), Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo), or Poison Study (Maria V. Snyder) instead.