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