The Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Published: 20 September 2011
Greenwillow, Hardcover, 423 pages
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 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.
Recently, I’ve been hitting it off really well with YA fantasy novels (e.g. The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas). Hence, I had really high hopes for The Girl of Fire and Thorns. However, it ended up falling a little short of my expectations, at least at first.
The story was a like the Old Testament of the Bible, where only prophets chosen from birth were able to directly do God’s will. In The Girl of Fire and Thorns, the prophets were replaced by bearers and these bearers were marked with a blue gem on their navel – a Godstone. Bearers were destined to commit a huge act of service by the will of God though not all of them actually complete that service. Unsurprisingly, our protagonist, Elisa, was a bearer.
Part I of the book (it was split into 2 or 3 parts) was quite a drag for me. I understand it was needed in order to show the contrast of Elisa before and after the rebels found her but it was so long it became a bore to read. Elisa was quite a bland girl at the start and honestly, I didn’t really like her helplessness nor her tendency to binge on food.
Girl, there’s a difference between loving to savor delicious food and simply stuffing anything edible down your throat.
However, cue Part II and BAM! Major character developments in Elisa. The trials Elisa went through literally brought her from a dull unpolished diamond to a polished, high grade one. The new, stronger Elisa was hands down a more intriguing protagonist.
I’ve also heard there were controversial views on Elisa’s weight loss through the story. I have nothing against curvier girls (I’m not stick-thin either) but in all honesty, having a healthier figure and not bingeing on substance until you feel sick would undoubtedly make you happier as a whole. Moreover, Elisa didn’t turn into an anorexic pole; she just got into better shape and improved her physical fitness.
While reading The Girl of Fire and Thorns, there was one particular thing that completely took me by surprise – Rae Carson’s ruthlessness. Just starting to warm up to a character? Nope, gotta kill her/him! It was scary, the number of major deaths Rae Carson included in the debut of the trilogy. It had me wondering, if I actually became invested in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, would my heart ever heal after reading the final installment, The Bitter Kingdom?
Despite all the heartbreak due to the deaths, I actually appreciate Rae Carson’s fearlessness in slaughtering off not just minor, but major characters too. It’s something in YA that is usually only done in the last book of series. This lack of mercy also made the plot wholly unpredictable and realistic.
Although I expected The Girl of Fire and Thorns to be high fantasy, it felt pretty mild to me as compared to other YA fantasy novels. The world seemed to have strong Spanish and Moroccan influences, a first for me and therefore, very entertaining to learn more about. On the flip side, I wish a map had been included in the book. It would have helped a lot with both world building and showing the path of Elisa’s journeys.
Overall, I fairly enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, with the exception of the first part. It definitely isn’t one of best fantasy novel out there but has a whole lot of potential to become one. In spite of the rough start, I would give the rest of the trilogy a shot and have The Crown of Embers, the second installment, on my shelf right now. Unfortunately, there’s still no map (boohoo) but the cover sure is prettier!