Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Fire and Thorns (Book 1)
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 424 Pages
ISBN-10: 0062026488 (Harper Teen)
ISBN-13: 978-0062026484 (Harper Teen)
Reviewed by: Emmy
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.
Quick & Dirty: The Spanishesque world was the perfect backdrop for this debut, which mixes politics, romance, and religion into a deadly clash of magic and cultures.
Opening Sentence: Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom.
This epic fantasy does a really great job of creating cultures that relate to ours, but are in a world reliant on magic, faith, and secrets that is so unlike our own that the comparison is only tentative.
The world Princess Lucero-Elisa hastily marries into is far more complicated than her life in Orovalle, where she studies war and scripture while eating her favorite pastries. But she wasn’t safe in Orovalle and Alejandro needed the troops her father can provide, so they get married. It isn’t long before Elisa realizes there’s another reason she’s been whisked away so abruptly. This reason has something to do with the Godstone embedded in her naval.
It quickly becomes clear that information that could very well be the difference between her life and her martyrdom has been held form her for sixteen years. As the world around becomes more treacherous, both politically and emotionally, she turns to God for guidance. But God’s signs are always ambiguous, and though her Godstone consigns her to Service, exactly what that entails is unknown. When Elisa’s taken from her new home in Alejandro’s palace across a desert to help aid a rebellion, she might finally have gotten where she needs to be.
The incoming war with Irviene is closer than Alejandro and his advisors can possibly know. The hill people fight as hard as they can to defend themselves, but with thousands of troops they are running out of hope. Elisa can’t be anyone’s savior. She can barely bring herself to look in the mirror. She’s fat with no talent besides her knowledge of tactics, but she’s quick to try and change people’s perception of her. When she wants someone to stop thinking poorly about her, she works twice as hard. Through a variety of circumstances, she loses weight, as she sheds the pounds she also gains a confidence in herself. The real Elisa, who had been hidden behind years worth of self-deprecation and feelings of uselessness, begins to shine through. It isn’t long before Elisa is ready to step up to the challenges God has put before her.
I know this book sounds super religious–and while there are priests and monasteries, it’s really not that kind of book. It’s not preaching anything, but instead adds another layer of conflict to the story and mythology of the Godstone. The Godstone comes once every century, when they’re still a baby. Though being destined for a great Service is clear, what that means is always unknown and perhaps more obscure than they realize. Many of them, in fact, die during their Service, even more die before it is completed. Elisa needs to protect herself, a task that’s too much for her inexperienced hands. Because if enemies find her, they won’t hesitate to cut the Godstone out of her.
This world clashes magic with political intrigue, a well spun romance, and a coming-of-age story that places beauty in confidence and faith rather than good looks and charm. This book blew me away with its careful world building and beautiful prose. Elisa has a clever mind and a sense of humor, which makes her narration easy to read and adds another layer to her religious persona. I am dying to get my hands on the next book in the trilogy, Crown of Embers, because I absolutely love to see the way Elisa evolved from scared and incompetent to confident and take-charge. The writing was completely engrossing and I want it to be September already so I can have the sequel!
I step forward to take the boy’s place, holding the roll tight against my breast. Father Nicandro’s left hand cups the back of my neck and pulls my head down until we are forehead to forehead.
“Your Highness,” he whispers. “What do you seek from God today?” With his other hand, the one that holds the rose, he reaches out and grasps the parchment between his middle and index fingers. With one quick, smooth motion, my message disappears into his voluminous sleeve, as if he is well practiced at intrigue.
He waits calmly for my answer. I give him the truth. “Wisdom,” I whisper back. “I need so much more than I have.”
The Fire and Thorns Series:
3. The Bitter Kingdom
FTC Advisory: Harper Teen provided me with a copy of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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