Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Series: Bitter Kingdom Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on September 20, 2011
Published by Greenwillow
Pages: 423
Read From: 6.28.14 - 6.29.14

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, and 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 her to be 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I do like the colors and the pretty font and the jewel, but it's also a tiny bit dull. It doesn't arrest my attention immediately.

Characters: I really liked Elisa. Amazingly, she didn't irritate me. Poor Elisa has very, very low self esteem; she's self-conscious, she feels useless, and at first she really isn't all that useful. She doesn't know how to do anything beyond appreciate good cooking and studying military tactics. This latter skill would be extremely useful indeed if she felt confident enough to put it to use. The thing, though, is that Elisa doesn't whine. She pities herself, she regrets being as useless as she is, and she doesn't know how to get the motivation to change her circumstances. But she doesn't whine. All of her insecurities and doubts she keeps to herself, and she doesn't expect anyone else to pity her. Elisa is a very relatable, decent, average girl who, when she finally gains her confidence, steps up to the challenge and her destiny. Nope, I couldn't dislike her. Alejandro, the king she is forced to marry, I had mixed feelings about. At first, I desperately hoped that Alejandro really was as nice as he seemed, and that maybe he would grow to genuinely love Elisa for who she was. Then I began to hate him when it turned out he had a mistress and was only kind to Elisa so she would cooperate. But I kept hoping that maybe he would be redeemed in the end. I won't tell you what ultimately happens. I didn't really like Cosme at first, Elisa's rude maid servant. But once I really got to know her, I liked her a lot. She was no-nonsense and tough; a believable fighter. And Humberto - oh my gosh, I loved Humberto! Despite his unfortunate name, he was awesome. But let us not forget Hector, Alejandro's captain-of-the-guard - someone else who was just super awesome. If I had personal security, I'd want Hector!

The Romance: Elisa tries to love her new husband, Alejandro; there's no denying, after all, that Alejandro is very handsome. But then she meets Humberto, and thoughts of Alejandro fly out the door. Months are supposed to pass in this book, but the romance between Humberto and Elisa does still feel a little fast. Even so, I really adored Elisa and Humberto together. He was good to her and encouraged her to have confidence. He was patient with her in the beginning, when Elisa wasn't physically fit and inept at pretty much everything. Patience is, for me, one of the most attractive traits a man can have, so I loved Humberto.

Plot: Elisa is the youngest of two royal princesses - and she is also the unattractive one. She has an over-fondness for food and not doing much in terms of physical exercise. As such, Elisa is less-than-thin and beyond being just a bit heavy. But Elisa is also the Chosen One of God. When she was born, she was blessed with the Godstone - a living, magical jewel that resides in her navel. It means that she is destined for some great feat. So when King Alejandro needs to secure military support from Elisa's father, marrying Elisa to him is a deal he can accept. Elisa is a stranger in Alejandro's desert land, and even worse - Alejandro reveals that he wants to keep their marriage a secret. And when Elisa finds out more and more about past Chosen Ones, she learns more and more about her own destiny - and how it may result in her early death. I can't say too much about the plot without giving stuff away, so I'll try to be careful without being too vague. The overall plot is good. I always enjoy court intrigue, invading armies, fighting to the bitter end sort of tales. The Girl of Fire and Thorns has it all: spies, sabotage, attempted assassinations, battles, skirmishes, intrigue, very bad odds, rebels, and some magic. The problem? The Girl of Fire and Thorns also tended to drag in between all of this. I still really enjoyed the book, and I understand that this first book in a trilogy wasn't just about armies, but Elisa growing into a leader. But I do think it could have moved just a tad bit faster. The world is awesome; I love how the Author wove together Indian, Spanish, and even some Arabic cultures together. Three parts of the world that aren't often put into a fantasy world. It was awesome. I was also really surprised at how heavily religion was featured. God and God's will is talked about a lot, and Elisa never becomes a character who believed in her country's religion, and then cast it off. What probably surprised me more is that the religious views in the book felt totally like they were coming from the characters, and not the Author. This kept it from feeling like Christian fiction. Don't get me wrong - I don't mind Christian fiction; I'm a Christian myself. But a lot of Christian fiction can feel preachy and a little silly. Rae Carson, though, was able to have religion without it feeling like she was injecting her own opinions, and it was nice.

Believability: Elisa starts out obese and thins as the story progresses. This has been a sore point for a lot of Readers. I had no problem with it for several reasons. Elisa may lose a lot of weight, but she never becomes thin. Even more importantly, the circumstances under which Elisa loses weight is simply realistic. She goes from an almost completely immobile life with endless access to sweets, to having to walk across the desert and eating only when she can. Weight loss is, realistically, going to happen. Elisa is a very insecure girl who hates herself for her weight, but doesn't know how to stop herself from eating. Of course she's going to rejoice when she loses it! And of course her confidence will be boosted; she will feel like she can now accomplish things! I also hate to say it, but unfortunately people don't tend to take obese people seriously; they just don't. It's horrible, I know, but people are shallow like that.

Writing Style: First person, present tense. I wasn't a fan of the present tense, but I did like Elisa as a narrator. I did get a little tired of her constantly talking about her weight, and beating herself up about a lot of things, but I could also understand and sympathize. I don't suffer from an eating disorder, but insecurities and not knowing how to fight them - I get that. Anxiety/depression can come in several forms; overeating being one of them. The style itself was pretty good, though, again I didn't care for the present tense - and I got tired of reading about Elisa's "navel." Can we just call it the Godstone and forget about it being in her navel?

Content: None.

Conclusion: Probably what solidified this book as a 4-strawberry book was some of the surprises in the end. I didn't see them coming at all. [Spoiler] She killed Humberto off!! What the heck?! After that, I thought maybe she would try and redeem Alejandro after all. But then he died, too! No love interests! Unless Hector becomes one. [End spoiler] The Girl of Fire and Thorns was a fun read. Yes, it lagged at times, but overall I loved the characters, the world, and the twists.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, sixteen-and-up, fans of fantasy.

Others in This Trilogy:
1)The Girl of Fire and Thorns
2)The Crown of Embers
3)The Bitter Kingdom


  1. This is another one of those famous series I still haven't read. I think I actually have an old ARC of the second book on my shelves. I may pick this one up now. The cultures used sound really interesting and, so long Elisa doesn't indulge in too much talk of low self-esteem/lack of confidence, sounds like it could be fun.

    1. The world is really interesting. And Elisa does indulge more than I really would like, but it tapers off when she starts focusing on leading the rebels - and I've been told that it pretty much vanishes with the next two books.


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