Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

the girl of fire and thorns cover

View from the window seat:
Lucero-Elisa, a second princess of Orovalle, bears the Godstone. Her whole life, she knows she’s been chosen by God for some unknown service and greatness. Despite being the chosen one, she still feels useless, until she is married to the handsome King Alejandro and travels to Joya d’Arena to find it embroiled in a war. Elisa is sought by enemies with strange magic and revolutionaries who believe her to be the savior of their people. Elisa must find the strength to fulfill the prophecy and help those who need her.

There are so many good things about this book that I don’t know where to start. The author gives us a compelling heroine in Elisa, who starts off as an insecure girl who only perceives herself as unworthy and undesirable. Many of her insecurities come from her weight, as she is very overweight, something that is practically unheard of in YA literature today. She also feels useless, because though she is destined for greatness, she hasn’t yet done anything noteworthy with her life and fears she will miss her chance. It was a delight to watch her grow into her role, choosing to take action and shape not only her own destiny but those of the people she soon loves and respects. She becomes a leader not by being made queen in a marriage to a handsome stranger, but by taking on responsibility and using her brain to devise battle strategies for a wearied, ill-suited band of fighters. All that being said, I did have some issues with Elisa’s narration and her transformation. The reader is constantly told by Elisa how fat she is. She is fixated on this, and it gets rather repetitive after a while. After a grueling journey through the desert, she finds she lost weight because of all the walking and tiny rations. Almost immediately after this change occurs, she starts to gain confidence in herself, which is potentially troubling.

Elisa is surrounded by a plethora of well-developed characters: her perfect sister, the not-so-perfect Alejandro, deadly yet loving Ximena, clever Cosmé, sweet and strong Humberto. I was pleased to see her marriage to the unknown King Alejandro was portrayed realistically. While there is insta-lust, there isn’t the dreaded insta-love. Her opinion of him changes as she sees more of how he acts.

The world-building is great, too. We move from the lush, beautiful palace of Orovalle to the ancient, cramped city of Brisadulce to the war-ravaged Hill country. Each setting is distinct, but all are connected through their people and their enemies. The entire world is infused with religion; Elisa finds over the course of her story that many people act in different ways all in the name of God’s will. I will say it was a different experience reading a fantasy novel with a religion so close to Christianity, with some obvious exceptions (the glowing Godstones, for example).

Overall impression:
With a strong plot, an interesting, well-developed world, an admirable heroine, and a cast of imperfect but likable characters, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a must-read. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, The Crown of Embers, which I’ll be reviewing later this month.


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