The Compulsive Reader: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is the second princess of Orovalle, and has always felt inferior to her beautiful, intelligent, and politically capable older sister. But surprisingly, it's Elisa who is arranged to be married to the young king of the great country of Joya d'Arena, a situation Elisa is quite unprepared for. She may be bookish and religious rather than imperious and confident, but Elisa does have one thing that her sister does not: the Godstone. Given to her on her naming day and destining her for a great act of service, the Godstone leads Elisa on a journey full of danger, love, and surprising outcomes that she never could have foreseen.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a magnificent fantasy debut, and it's hard to say which is more spectacular: the setting, or heroine Elisa. Carson's world is so vibrant and three-dimensional, with wonderful descriptions of the food, decoration, language, mannerisms, and lifestyles of the people of Orovalle and those from all over Joya d'Arena. Everything has a wonderful Spanish influence that makes this tale unique and authentic. These lands also have their own religion, a bit akin to Christianity, which ties in with the Godstone Elisa carries and is a prominent part of the story. Elisa herself is a lovely character to observe as she starts off her adventure an insecure, plump girl uncertain about her future and her place in Joya d'Arena. She combats those feelings with pastries and self-deprecating humor, unsure of how to act despite her intelligence. Circumstances beyond her control rip her from comfortable surroundings a second time, and this time Elisa is forced to face her unwanted future and duties, beginning a transformation into the powerful, incisive leader that was lurking beneath her surface the entire time. Elisa's mistakes and doubt about her destiny as the bearer of the Godstone are quite similar to the doubts we all face in life, making her a very sympathetic character, and all the more likable when she triumphs over her own indecision and the real enemies she faces.

There are also many different and interesting supporting characters in this book that make Elisa's journey complicated and rather entertaining: Cosme and Humberto, enemies who aren't at all what they first appear to be, Alejandro, Elisa's husband who is a stranger to her, and Lord Hector, guard and surprising ally to Elisa in her new foreign home. Their presence complicates and lightens the story in different manners, and each one teaches Elisa important lessons about life and being a leader. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a beautiful and impeccably written novel, with heart, suspense, action, betrayal, and triumph--all of the makings of a truly epic fantasy.

Cover Comments: I really love this cover! I like how the blue stone is on the cover, like the Godstone, and how it shows the girl's reflection, and the magical feel to the images surrounding the stone. Also, the font for the title is just awesome. This is a beautiful cover!

This one will be released on September 20th, 2011! I can hardly wait!

ARC picked up at HarperCollins event.

ETA: I'm getting a lot of feedback from readers who are put off by the religion in the book. I compared it to Christianity in my review, but it IS NOT Christianity. It has some similar elements, but it is its own religion, unique to this fantasy world. I definitely encourage you to pick this book up and not let any worries about religion deter you. I also think that it's beneficial to remind you all that many great fantasy reads have their own form of religion--Tamora Pierce's Tortall books do, Elizabeth C. Bunce's StarCrossed does...it's just another element that makes the world more realistic, and it doesn't necessarily reflect any religion known in our world. So, let's keep an open mind, okay? Don't miss out on an AMAZING book because you are unsure about one element of the plot.


DJ D. said...

Hmm, this sounds like an interesting read. I've heard it's a bit religious, which has kind of put me off, but your review has made me want to hunt down a copy. :-) Thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Thea said...

Hmm, I haven't heard about the religion, which also puts me off. In spite of that, I'll pick it up if I run into it in the library. I also love the font! :D

Jules said...

I have this one to read too, and I'm quite excited about it because I haven't read a good fantasy book in a while! :)

The Compulsive Reader said...

DJ and Thea: When I say it's religious, I mean that the religion of that fantasy world is present and a part of the story. It's not really a religion that is known in our world--it's a little like Christianity, but it is unique to the fantasy world.

I definitely think that you would be missing out on such an amazing book if you passed it up because it has its own religion...there are plenty of famous, awesome fantasy books with their own religions. They just make the stories more realistic.

Michelle said...

It's sad to see people get turned off by religion in books. I just finished reading a Christian YA historical/time travel series that I really enjoyed. I am not Christian and while sometimes it got to be a little much, it never really distracted me from the plot enough to be bothersome. (It took place in medieval Italy so obviously, religion was important there.) I'm glad that I didn't let it turn me away because I had a ton of fun reading these three books.

Anyways, I'm rambling. I just picked up "The Girl of Fire and Thorns" and am excited to read it now based on your review. :)

Eesti said...

What I really liked about this book is it isn't comfortable. Elise is forced to confront her own insecurities as well as a slew of events that will forever shape the woman she is turning out to be. There are several moments where I mentally cringed - like how Elise thinks of herself, and how Elise loses close friends to her - but I enjoyed the raw and edgy feel of the story. In fact, I was engrossed. I really wanted to know how Elise's first installment of her story was going to resolve itself.