Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
Genre: YA Fantasy
Synopsis:Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.
I will be honesty. I never heard of this book until I went to NOVA Teen Book Festival and heard Rachel Hawkins talking about how much she loved it. Given that I am obsessed with Rachel Hawkins and her awesomeness, I decided to grab it. It took me months and months to start the book, since I suspected it was something I was going to be majorly into. I adore Fantasy novels. I love feeling like I’m in this new world I have to discover, yet one that strangely feels like my own. There’s just something about a good Fantasy novel that makes me want to change my name and join the cosplay scene. So, needless to say, I was excited. With that said, about half way in, my excitement diminished. This may get me burned at the stake but the book is FINE. Just FINE. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, enjoyed it well enough. Let me break it down here.
What I liked: I enjoyed the fact that the main character was quite different than the blushing roses we generally see in YA fiction. She also wasn’t the hardened warrior we sometimes get in Fantasy. Elisa is the type of character who is aware of her flaws. Despite being this type of holy figure, she’s deeply flawed and quite naive. The way she views herself was realistic, especially since she was a young woman struggling with her weight and an obsession with using food as a comfort mechanism. I appreciated the realism in which Carson drew her. Yes, she is a member of royalty, she’s even a kind of Madonna figure, but she’s also a young girl struggling with the idea of her self worth trapped in a marriage with a man she doesn’t trust and yearning for affection. Elisa is not a wilting flower, but she’s also not a hardened warrior. I appreciated her intellect, but like how Carson foiled that with the fact that Elisa has little experience with war. Many of Elisa’s plot’s fail. There is nothing I hate more in a Fantasy novel than when the main character has all the answers and everything goes there way and realism is thrown out of the window. Yes, Elisa is smart and capable. She’s also naive. All her experience comes from books and the fact that she often miscalculates the cost of war is what makes this book enthralling.
What I didn’t like: There is a lot of religion in this book. Totally fine with me. I actually began to imagine the scene as something out of Medieval Spain. That being said, I constantly felt myself grasping for explanations. While there is religion there is also a lot of mysticism. At times I felt like Carson used religion to explain away some wholes in the plot. If I read “It is the will of God,” one more time, I was going to throw the book across the room. In a story so dependent on the intricacies of magic and religion, it felt like Carson glossed over one by shoving the other in your face. Don’t even get me started on the confusion of the ending. I’m hoping that one gets explained at some point.
Overall, I enjoyed the characters of this book. Elisa is a wonderful heroine, but I feel like her journey is detracted from by Carson who relies on religion to plug any questions. I’m going to read the next two books in the series out of sheer curiosity, but I was really hoping for something more from this one. 3/5