The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Date: September 20th 2011
Genre: YA / Fantasy
Series: Fire and Thorns
My rating: I’d go there again
“The Girl of Fire and Thorns” is a young princess, Elisa, aged sixteen, who has the dubious distinction of being the “Godbearer,” the chosen one, caused by the mysterious placement of a blue jewel in her navel as a newborn infant. She spends most of her childhood and adolescence feeling out of place, inadequate, and uncomfortable in her surroundings, compared to her elder sister, the perfect princess (she’s tall, elegant, skilled at statecraft). Elisa copes with these feelings by eating. She’s a comfort eater. All this is briefly shown to the reader (the author does a good job showing, not telling), and the story begins with the fitting of the protagonist’s too-tight wedding dress. She marries the unknown young king of the much larger neighboring kingdom, and sets off to the capital city of his realm. On the way they encounter bandits, which is the first instance of Elisa’s inner strength. In her new home, she discovers political intrigues, and gets kidnapped by citizens desperate for help in their battle against the Enemy. The kidnapping leads to a journey across the desert, an intriguing young guide, guerrilla warfare, a daring reconnaissance into enemy territory, another kidnapping and an even more daring escape, and a desperate mission to a neighboring lord for assistance. The story is full of intrigue, adventure, love and betrayal, and my favorite part, self-discovery.
I really loved the emotional growth of the main character, and the inner strength she discovers as she begins to take action in her own life. Elisa’s character was realistic and very accurate, considering she is only sixteen at the opening of the book. An insecure, un-self-confident, imperfect sixteen. Watching her grow into a strong, confident young woman was one of the joys of this book.
I also appreciated the treatment of weight issues. Elisa is not comfortable with her eating habits and her weight. But that changes when she starts to act, to take charge of her life, her actions, and her situation. She starts to feel confident, to believe that she has worth and value, and in doing so, begins to take restorative steps for her own emotional well-being. Furthermore, the author makes it clear that she is addicted to sugar. I don’t know many people who are aware that sugar can be addictive, but the headaches Elisa suffers from hint that she does need sugar, until she gets kidnapped and has to quit cold-turkey.
Although I never found myself liking the king, I did appreciate his character. This king is not the usual perfect, attractive young man that is often found in fantasy and YA fantasy. Instead, he is handsome but weak. There are also plenty of excellent supporting characters. All seemed genuine, realistic.
This book is both fast-paced and un-put-downable. It’s been a long time since I’ve read fantasy involving arduous journeys and harrowing escapes and adventure, and I’ve missed it!
I found the magical premise not as much to my liking as I have other magics in other worlds and books, but I am interested in finding out more about how bearers become bearers and what the rules are for magic on this world. I also have some questions about the religion, the Godstones, and the amulets in the possession of Invierne, which I hope will be answered in the sequel.
At different times, this book reminded me of the works of Sharon Shinn and Sherwood Smith.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, for the characterization but also the plot and all its adventure.