Book: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance
Summary: Elisa has always felt powerless, useless. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king - 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 save his people. And he looks at her in a way no man had ever looked at her before. 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. - Greenwillow Books, 2011.
For my last young adult book of the year (I'm pretty sure, there's still a month left), I got through this one pretty quick like all of the others.
Spoilers will be kept to a minimum.
I got this book for free from the publisher when I went to a Publishing Institute several years ago. I'm a sucker for fantasy and this sounded interesting so I thought why not.
Elisa is a princess who has been married to a king of a neighboring nation for political purposes. While the king is thin, Elisa is fat. Yes, the heroine is plus size. Carson makes a point of this. Is it a marriage of the handsome young man overcoming the typical reaction of a beautiful person and loving the girl in spite of her size? Not quite. Elisa is not just your everyday princess though. She is also the bearer of the god stone, a magical jewel attached to her navel that means she has been chosen by god to achieve some special purpose. What that purpose is, she isn't sure yet, but she is determined to do her best. What Elisa lacks in physical attributes, she makes up for in intelligence and cleverness. She speaks several languages, has read war and political books and is overall very well read. She is proactive when she wants to be politically and her size doesn't bother her too much - only when it concerns matters of the heart.
After spending a few uneventful days in the palace, Elisa is kidnapped by a group that wishes to use her god stone to help them win a war that's been going on for years. Elisa must rise to the challenge of dealing with what might be her destiny and coming to terms with who she is as a person.
Overall, the book has some nice twists to the typical fantasy heroine-saves-the-world story. The universe Carson creates is well-developed - from the geography, to the political hierarchy, to the religion that is the basis for the god-stone, everything has been thought of and accounted for as much as is necessary. The characters are all memorable in their own rights, save for Elisa's family and country since the reader doesn't spend much time there.
As a character, Elisa really grows on you and her development from shy, naive princess to wiser, cunning woman is clearly illustrated. Her size, while a prominent part of the story for the first third, gradually fades into the background and is only mentioned again in the more quiet parts of the story. Due to her kidnapping, Elisa does lose some weight, but she doesn't become a super model by any means. It's not exactly a Cinderella transformation. Even so, I'm glad Carson didn't focus on it too much, otherwise it would have been really distracting.
The adventure and intrigue is more dominant than the romance, which is nice if you don't want it to be all romance, but what little romance is there doesn't translate as well. The king isn't really a love interest and I thought the romance with the other character Elisa encounters was entirely not well-developed. For reasons I won't spoil, the reader doesn't get a chance to understand how the character fell in love or why he was in love. Most people probably would say I'm nitpicking, but for me, I think slow burn romances that you can see slowly building are much better than romances that are quick and have no previous warning or development. I sensed a potential love interest for the sequels, but I'll have to read them to see if I'm right or not. Basically, if you're in it for the adventure and don't like romance, don't worry, it's not all sparkles and butterflies.
I thought the treatment of the king was a little unfair as far as his relationship with Elisa. I won't go too far into it because of potential spoilers, but I think that Elisa's final stance with him at the end of the novel is less kind than he deserves. I think he deserves more pity than anger, but she's sixteen so I won't hold it against her too much. He has other faults to supplement her views of him, so I'm glad it wasn't all focused on one fault in particular.
The other thing that didn't really work with me was the climax. I thought it was really cheesy. I'm sure there was no other way to go about writing it, but that's just another nitpick of mine. I think it's really cheesy. The rest of the novel is fine as far as the drama factor goes, so again, this is a minor point.
It's nice read for young adults and I think the idea of a plus size heroine is a unique one to utilize. I'd recommend it. Although, if you're not a fan of religion, I would pass on this one, since the religion is central to Elisa's sense of self and to the world she lives in.
Overall, I give The Girl of Fire and Thorns an A.
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Thanks for reading!