Book Review : The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
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. (Synopsis courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
This is a first published novel, and is quite good. Rae Carson will be worth watching to see what else she writes. One of Carson’s strengths is her world building. In The Girl of Fire and Thorns she has created several distinct regions, each with their own physical characteristics, societal expectations, beliefs and motivations. Brisadulce is a version of a decadent Persia, the desert of Basajuan is harsh but beautiful and Elisa’s homeland feels European medieval. There are also detailed descriptions of the opposing race of beings, and a religious/moral question raised of how they have acquired the Godstone.
I have seen that some readers were upset with the foundation of the novel centering around a fictional religion that has a Judeo-Christian root. Because this novel is for young adults I felt like the author made a good choice in establishing a religion that would be familiar to the majority of her readers, and it did not bother me at all. Carson does not preach, and in fact, explores the questions of personal belief and devotion briefly. Religion is part of the context of the story, but is not a vehicle for her to pound a personal religious soap-box. Understanding God is a core need for teens, and I thought Carson handles religion well for a teen’s novel.
A weakness in this novel is the male characters. I didn’t feel attached to any of the men. Alejandro was so indecisive, it didn’t seem probable that he had traveled across countries to take Elisa as a wife when he constantly second guessed every other decision he ever made. Having been raised at court, Alejandro seemed to be inadequately equipped to be a political leader. Humberto, on the back cover, sounded like he might be a devilish, dark Byronic hero, or as a minimum be passionate. Instead Humberto was a shy, awkward boy experiencing puppy love. Remember I have listed spoiler alerts………..So, when Humberto is killed I was surprised because it was abrupt, and not well crafted, but I wasn’t actually upset. (I believe this presents a big problem if a main character dies and I don’t feel any particular emotion.) And later, it seemed best when Alejandro died because at least he sacrificed himself nobly. (Do you feel me yawning over these male “romantic” leads?) Lord Hector, as secondary character, seems to have hope of becoming a better written leading man in a future novel. Lord Hector is a bit gritty, honest and chivalrous.
The female characters, overall, are more interesting. The Condessa Ariña is bitter, grasping for position, presents false smiles and is full of the intrigue associated with Court. Cosmé is interesting as a character because she appears to be loyal to Condessa Ariña when she is actually following her own passions to save her people. Ximena was full of dichotomies being devout to her religious upbringing, was ruthless and lovingly raised Elisa.
Elisa’s character grows through the novel. I was extremely pleased to see how she changed because I didn’t relate to Princess Elisa in the beginning and actually feel that her character is a weakness in this novel. Many of us may feel inadequate, and this could help us relate to Elisa, however, I actually found her whining and skewed perception of others to be annoying. Through a letter Elisa discovers that her sister believes she can become a great queen, but she didn’t see the love and respect her sister had for her because she assumed her sister hated her because she was overweight. Elisa describes herself in such unflattering terms she sounded physically repulsive which made it harder for me to want to identify with her. I also wonder if there is a slight undertone in the message of Elisa which was not intended. When Elisa is changing emotionally she sheds pounds and becomes thinner. Does this reinforce the idea that women need to be a certain size to be acceptable or beautiful? Lord Hector does say that she is beautiful at any size. I’m just not sure I believe his words and delivery. By the end of the novel I do like Elisa and respect that she will do the right thing even if it is the hard thing.
Even with all that said, I did enjoy the novel and will read the next thing that Rae Carson writes. It is always fun to watch a new author grow in their writing.
3.25 out of 5 stars
Teen Point View
I did not like the main character, but I liked the story. The book seems incomplete and I think there needs to be another.
2.5 out of 5 stars