Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson
Read: March 16-17, 2013
Published: September 20, 2011 by Greenwillow
Category: Fantasy, YA
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. (From Goodreads)
Girl of Fire and Thorns is an amazing book that sucked me completely into its pages. I loved the fantasy world Rae Carson created and especially her heroine Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza. However, this book has been reviewed so much that I don't know what I can add to all the gushing.
I thought I'd just take a little time to say 5 things about Elisa and her story. But if I were just going to say one thing, it would be that Elisa's personal growth in this book is inspiring. Even so there was no point in this story that I didn't like her. She is truly a remarkable, inspiring heroine, and I'm glad to have met her.
1) Elisa is fat.
No she is not just a girl with poor body image. Elisa really is very overweight. She is also the first one to tell you that fact about herself. Elisa is a comfort eater. Eating is an expression of how useless Elisa feels as a younger princess and "chosen one," when she looks around and sees her sister Alodia, who is beautiful, more formidable and clearly better suited for greatness, as well as a father who doesn't pay any attention to Elisa. Then Elisa is quickly married off to an older, attractive man that she's never met and whisked away to his kingdom where she feels even more out of her depth.
I will admit to being uncomfortable about Elisa's weight issues when I started the book, and finding it painful to watch her eat until she was ill. However, I also love that this makes Elisa both an unlikely hero and a real, relatable person. Who hasn't suffered from poor body image (or know someone who has), or who doesn't like to eat ice cream when they feel bad? Elisa's weight also is a visual depiction of her tremendous growth throughout the novel. She learns to appreciate her body and make better choices about how she takes care of herself, while she learns to believe in herself and trust in her abilities.
Elisa's honesty about herself and her faults is refreshing and endearing. I always felt like I was right there in Elisa's head while reading this book, and I was constantly in awe of her ability to make wise strategic decisions. I also love that despite her weight problems, from the beginning it is clear that Elisa is intelligent and very capable (and useful). She continually impressed me with her bravery, care of others and her determination to keep going no matter what she faced.
2) Elisa has a stone in her bellybutton.
In Elisa's world, one person in every 100 years is chosen by God for an act of service. This person is marked with a colored godstone that is divinely lodged in his/her bellybutton during infancy. Elisa has always known that she is supposed to be special, however that only serves to make her feel even more useless, because she feels completely inadequate to the task before her. She also doesn't have any clue what special thing she's supposed to be doing.
Despite Elisa's feelings of inadequacy and her doubts about herself, she possesses tremendous personal faith. She questions and fears, and feels hopeless at times, but she never stops praying and asking God for guidance, or thanking him for what he's given her. Elisa always puts other people above herself and she is willing to serve and be used. I loved the depiction of Elisa's faith and the way that her stone heated when she communicated with God. I also thought her beliefs worked beautifully within her culture, which features Spanish influences (more on the landscape below).
3) Elisa travels throughout this book.
Elisa lives in a world with Spanish, North African desert, and South American rainforest influences. The landscape she travels is vidid and lifelike. I could sense the dry heat of the desert and the suffocating moisture of the rainforest, the flash floods in the mountains and the magic of discovering an oasis in the middle of a sand-filled desert. I love that I could visualize as much as I could physically sense the world in which Elisa lives.
4) Elisa falls in love.
I'm not going to tell you any who, but I will say what everyone has told me, which is that this series doesn't have a love triangle. The love story is sweet and also a tad unconventional. But most of all, I really enjoyed watching Elisa's understanding of love develop on her journey through this story. She starts off very naive, and throughout the course of the book, learns what it means to love and to be loved unconditionally by another.
5) Elisa suffers losses.
I was told before I started this book that Rae Carson is willing to sacrifice anyone for her story, but WOW, they weren't kidding! Girl of Fire and Thorns is filled with many vivid characters besides Elisa, and that always makes me far more attached to them. Some grew on me unexpectedly and some I adored as soon as they came on screen. But the thing all these characters shared is that none of them were safe. Elisa's country is being threatened by war, and not only the good will survive (or die). Despite what she looses, Elisa moves forward, living her life, surviving and making the best decisions that she can. This book was tough in places, but this message was also integral to Elisa's growth in the story, and made me love it more.
Cliffhanger Scale: Low
Love Triangle Factor: Mild
I am such a fan of this series, in part because of the character growth. And let's just say that the romantic storyline is really unique too. You'll see when you read the next book.ReplyDelete
You can find me here: Jen @ YA Romantics
I was so excited to discover a heroine who GROWS as you said, but is also never annoying. That doesn't always happen. I love Elisa to pieces. And I am in the middle of book 2, and know some of what you mean about the unique romantic storyline. I don't know if there's more to come (probably). But I'm excited for the SWOON that I know is in this book.Delete
This is one of my favorite fantasy series. I think you pointed out the things I loved as well. I hope you continue to love the series!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Candace! I'm in the middle of book 2 and so far so good!Delete
I have wanted to read this series since I first heard of this book ages ago. YAY for a low cliffhanger scale which really means I don't have to wait until the final book comes out in August to get started. I actually think I already have this first book on my kindle. :)ReplyDelete
I have heard so much about Elisa and I think I will like her. I hope so. You know I'm a sucker for good fantasy and world-building and character development. And I LOVE the way you did this review. Love it!
Oh Asheley, you will LOVE this series. I'm not sure about the cover with the image in the jewel (not my favorite), but just ignore it if it bothers you. This series is so fantastic. You will adore Elisa, seriously! She grows a ton, but I've always thought she was inspiring. ALL THE THINGS YOU LOVE ARE IN THIS BOOK!Delete
HAHA, I just assumed the strange cover was the stone in her bellybutton? Is that weird?Delete
I feel like I have heard a bit about this series, but not a lot, and I definitely haven't felt too intrigued... until now! Elisa sounds like a really complex, realistic character and one who is easy to relate to. Also, travel is always fun!ReplyDelete
I'm going to add this to my reading list ;)
Elisa is a great heroine! I hope you read and love this series. Yes, I loved exploring the country that she lives. I'm reading book 2 and there's even more to discover.Delete
YES! I am so glad you enjoyed this one, Lauren, and I cannot WAIT to see your reaction after Crown of Embers! :) I think one of my favorite components of this series is that it's so instantly relate-able despite being fantasy, which makes it appeal to mostly-contemporary readers as well. Elisa is the type of heroine you can't help but root for the the plot, pace, and characters made this book shine. In my opinion, the sequel was even better, despite slightly less action in terms of plot. Wonderful review, though, Lauren! :DReplyDelete
I was so hesitant to pick this one up, but then I saw that you read and loved it recently, and I KNEW I had to start it too. Thankfully, book 3 comes out this year. You're right, Elisa is so relatable and real. But she's also likable. I'm making my way through the sequel and loving it as least as much so far! Can't wait for some more SWOON.Delete
Awesome review, L! I like this simple format! So, so glad you started this series. Elisa is an amazing heroine. And yes, I ADORE the setting and all those gorgeous Spanish influenced names that roll of your tongue. Beautiful.ReplyDelete
I can't wait for you to finish the next book in this series because I am with Keertana. I may have liked it even more:)
By the way, did you know there are two novellas for this series? The Shadow Cats which features Alodia (since there wasn't so much of her in bk #1 or bk #2) and The Shattered Mountain which features a secondary character from The Crown of Embers. I haven't read either but need to before The Bitter Kingdom releases this fall:)
Thanks, H! I'm trying to come up with something to use when I don't know what to say, or want to write a shorter review. This definitely worked well for this book.Delete
Thank you for pushing this book so much! I love it to pieces. But I'm also glad I waited to read it until book 1 and 2 were out, and I'm glad I was prepped about a few of the terrible things that happened here. I think it helped me face them better. I'm loving book 2, and need to get back to it soon!
I didn't know about the novellas! I will check them out after reading Crown of Embers. Do you think they're essential to the series? I'm less interested in novellas that deal with minor secondaries. But I love this world so much, that I definitely want to delve further.
Well, I think that The Shadow Cats/ Alodia will be coming into play in bk # 3 FOR SURE. And the secondary character that is featured in The Shattered Mountain does play a pivotal role in The Crown of Emebrs so I think that both would definitely enhance bk #3. I have kinda vowed to always try to read these novellas if I can, because they really do add so much to the story character wise. Case in point: Destroy Me AND The Queen's Army.Delete
Really fantastic review, Lauren! This is one of my most favorite fantasy series, and you touched on everything I loved about it and did so eloquently. I am so glad this book was a hit with you, and I can't wait to see what you think of the next one. Any plans to read the novella from Alodia's POV? I'm picking up The Shattered Mountain as soon as it releases on Tuesday so I can read it before I get to my copy of The Bitter Kingdom. You have no idea how excited I am, but after you read Crown of Embers, I think you'll understand. :DReplyDelete
Thanks, Jen. I agree, this is an amazing series. I haven't read the novellas. I will definitely check them out after I finish Crown of Embers, which I'm reading now. I'm really glad that book 3 comes out this year and that I don't have a huge wait!Delete
THIS BOOK SOUNDS SO GOOD. I've heard only the best things about it, and I don't know why I've been putting it off for so long. I've heard lots of things about Elisa and her weight. I agree that it's very relatable, and I'm glad Elisa is so realistic! I feel like I would enjoy her character a lot. I hope I can read this one soon. fabulous review, Lauren!ReplyDelete
This book IS so good, Sophia! I hope you read it and love it. Elisa is definitely one of the best parts of the book, although there was so much that I loved.Delete
So many people love this series! Alas, I started it a few times and just couldn't connect with the writing/character, so I eventually just gave up. Still, I'm tempted to try again sometime. I do like unconventional heroines, and it sounds like the author isn't afraid to take risks with her story, either.ReplyDelete
Wendy @ The Midnight Garden
Sorry this one hasn't worked for you. I totally understand the feeling of wanting to connect to a book, but being unable to do so. If you do pick this one up again, I hope that it works for you. Maybe the third time's a charm?Delete
Yay I'm glad that you finally were able to read The Gire of Fire and Thorns, Lauren! (And that you loved it so much.) I read it back last fall and was recently gifted with a copy of The Crown of Embers, so your review is a welcome reminder that I need to continue with this storyline. Elisa's personal growth is definitely the best aspect of this story - no competition. I think that's why I love YA so much. No other genre is as likely to have a protagonist experience such growth and maturation as YA does. Wonderful review!ReplyDelete
Book two is even more fun! (I Just finished it!). Elisa continues to grow in book 2, and I love that she becomes much more mature in the sequel. I never thought about your comment about YA and growth, but you're totally right. That IS one of the aspects that I love about it.Delete