Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: NetGalley
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, and 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 her to be 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.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a high fantasy with just a touch of a magic system based in the religion of the area. Religion is a prominent motivation in the main character's life (she is a chosen one) and powers the magic system through the Godstones that the chosen ones carry. It is a monotheistic religion, but is pure fantasy, unique to Elisa's world, and is used as a device to put forth the prophecies of the chosen ones as well as the magic system.

Elisa is an interesting character who I loved but was also frustrated with at times. She's different than most other heroines. She's pious, but suffers from numerous doubts which makes her easily relatable. She is fat. How often do we get not just chubby, but fat heroines? This is awesome. But then her fatness is paired with this gluttonous side that eats and eats to comfort herself long after she acknowledges to herself that she is full. This frustrated me. There's one part where she makes herself sick by eating too much. Ehh.. She gets scathing looks and is treated poorly because she is fat, which I liked to see because it's a problem for people who aren't the ideal body shape or weight. Then a situation arises which forces Elisa to go on a long march across the desert and eat and drink rationed portions of food and water for the sake of sustenance alone. She sheds some of her extra pounds and becomes stronger physically, but what I like about this is that she is still a pretty big girl. She doesn't turn into one of the skinny girls. She's curvy. Perhaps not as interesting as fat. Of course the people who previously treated her poorly begin to see her in a different way. Frustrating, but realistic. I like that Rae Carson shows us this difference in the way people are treated based upon their looks. What I am not sure that I like about Elisa's physical transformation is that it suggests one is actually better than the other, or that losing some of her weight was some sort of a solution to her other problems. But losing the weight gives her some confidence, and she begins to feel useful in her new role. She occasionally would forget to eat while she was so busy. Frustrating. Elisa does undergo some personal growth beyond gaining confidence and her physical changes. She realizes how spoiled and entitled she's been growing up as a princess, and she does her best to change herself from pampered to authoritative. Another thing to like about Elisa? She's smart, and uses her brains to succeed.

Some of my favorite characters besides Elisa? Her nurse, who is secretly a bad ass. Hector and Humberto, who treat Elisa with respect and kindness throughout the novel.

The plot pacing is not what I would call fast, but it definitely isn't slow either. It's steady. There's always something going on, whether it's battling or scheming or politicking. Elisa's story is one of leaving what she knew behind and setting out for the unknown. Her journey educates her. It changes her.

I enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns. It's refreshing to see another high fantasy in YA when the market seems flooded with paranormal within the fantasy genre. There is a war taking place in this book, so it does contain some character deaths and mutilations and whatnot. The things that frustrated me about Elisa were more nagging little things rather than anything that made me dislike her or the story. I liked it and will be picking up the sequel to see what happens next.

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