Book Reviews

[review] The Girl of Fire and Thorns – Rae Carson

Release Date: September 20, 2011
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: ARC received from Karen Hooper

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

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 needs 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.

Discovery: Lots of book buzz put this book on my radar, but it’s the story that hooked me. I haven’t read an epic fantasy since Game of Thrones, so I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into this book.

+     Elisa. Rae Carson’s protagonist seems to be a textbook case of strong-heroine but that perception shifts just as quickly as the sands around Orovalle. I thought I had her pegged within the first few chapters, but I was wrong. At first, Elisa is exactly what one might expect: an insecure girl who’s thrust into a situation from which she can’t break free. But over the course of the novel, she emerges as a girl who’s aware of her weaknesses and pushes past them anyway. It’s easy to forget that Elisa is only sixteen during the events of the novel–her insights into human nature are mature for her age. Nevertheless, Rae Carson doesn’t let the reader forget that at the end of the day, Elisa is a teenager who has found an extraordinary well of strength in herself. She is a wonderful example for girls everywhere.

+     Religion and power. When I started reading this book, the first mentions of religion made me nervous. I am Catholic, but religion in novels always makes me a tiny bit anxious because either it’s full-on hate for organized religion or heavy-handed adoration. Thankfully, the themes in this novel were expertly handled. I love the parallels drawn between religion and power, how both can twist saving acts into the worst kinds of abuse, and how it’s often the smallest and least powerful that truly understand the nature of love. The idea of destiny is also twisted–Elisa isn’t alone in her quest and that cooperation saves her life more than once.

+     Writing style. I won this book from Karen Hooper in a comment contest. Karen asked her readers to tell her why they deserved to read The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I had this to say about the matter:

As a little girl, I burned my hand. The fear of fire has stayed with me since then, to the point where I can’t hold a lit candle without having a panic attack. I chose to be a writer but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. More writers are rejected and ridiculed every day than find success, and it really can be a bath of fire sometimes. But books like Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns inspire me to keep going. One day, it will happen for me, and in the meantime I have to find a way to break away those fears. Somewhere out there, there may be another young girl afraid to spark the flame of passion and joy inside her and I might be the lucky person who can help her. Isn’t that the best thing a writer can achieve?

In case you didn’t know, this is Rae’s first book. It’s also, hands-down, one of the best books I’ve read in the last two years. That doesn’t come from nothing. It’s obvious that Rae cared about her story enough to make sure that it received the best treatment possible, and the writing is simply superb. The kingdoms are beautifully described, the characters full and vibrant and the dialogue smart and intense. The work she put into crafting Elisa’s story is inspiring and intimidating, and I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this book.

Recommendations:  If I could, I would put this book into the hands of every person I meet. For now, I’ll just have to settle for stroking the cover lovingly when I see it in bookstores and wait for my birthday to buy it. BUT YOU SHOULD ALL ORDER IT RIGHT NOW.

Rating:  Excellent.

Go check out Rae Carson’s website and follow her on Twitter @raecarson.

You can check out The Girl of Fire and Thorns on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

Next review: And Then Things Fall Apart, Arlaina Tibensky


8 replies »

  1. I’ve heard a lot about this book recently but I really didn’t know too much about it. I had assumed (based on the former cover) that it was a lot like other paranormal books that have come out recently. I’m happy to see that it’s more high fantasy than paranormal (not that there’s anything wrong with paranormal!!). It makes me more interested in this book and more likely to pick it up.

  2. I had to take a peek at your review and it’s an excellent one. Elisa’s transformation is definitely inspiring and I, too, would pass this book onto everyone if I could. So, so good.

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