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The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)

Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom. The Scriptura Sancta lies discarded, pages crumpled, no my bed. Bruises mark my knees from kneeling on the tiles, and the Godstone in my navel throbs.

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.”

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was an excellent YA fantasy. The world-building was superb; Carson has created a feuding fantasy realm that’s more than just names on a page. The religion, although it probably could have been explained more, was very interesting too. Most fantasy novels don’t speak of a specific religion with a God, but The Girl of Fire and Thorns did. I was kind of expecting the religion to be a subtle push for Christianity or something (and that would have been super annoying), but it wasn’t. It was just a fantasy realm with religion instead of magic. Like Graceling, there isn’t really much magic in the world (only one specific type relating to the Godstone); it’s just an imaginary land. I also loved the plot; it was unique, but also kind of universal. Even if Elisa lives in a made up world, she is still struggling with issues that other teenage girls do: her appearance and self-confidence. It was very relatable. 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was also really absorbing. It wasn’t necessarily suspenseful in that I couldn’t put the book down, but I did want to know what would happen, and as I read, I became immersed in the fascinating story. There’s certainly a mystery element to this novel, and I wanted to find out what exactly was going on. 

One of the greatest things about the book is Elisa’s character development. She is overweight, and in the beginning half of the book she hates herself because she’s so fat. She refers to herself as a sausage on several occasions. But if she’s a sausage, she’s a very smart one. Gradually, she gains confidence in her abilities, realizes that her perfect older sister doesn’t despise her after all, and recognizes her own power as the chosen one. It was lovely to read as Elisa became an empowered young woman. I was also really glad that the heroine wasn’t some perfect, gorgeous, super-skinny, athletic, paragon of impossibility. I’m quickly realizing that that’s the problem with fantasies like Throne of Glass (although I still can’t help but love it because it’s so enjoyable to read).

Considering the fact that Elisa is kind of overweight, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of food in the book. I loved reading about the banquets and the snacks that Elisa has. She frequently sneaks off to the kitchen to get some sort of pastry with honey; it had my mouth watering.

I’m not religious, but I must say that some of the descriptions of faith were moving. On page 85, Father Nicandro has a bright red rose with large thorns, and he uses it to illustrate the beauty and the pain of faith. It was a great analogy.

I really loved the romance aspect and the fact that it wasn’t too prominent. Yes, there was a very slight love triangle, but it was barely that, and it wasn’t a big part of the story. Also, there was a very unexpected and heartbreaking part to it. The Girl of Fire and Thorns wasn’t too annoyingly young adult. I really enjoyed all of the other characters, and again, the plot was really good, in the second half especially. There were so many twists, and just when I thought I knew what would come, something startling occurred.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns had so many amazing elements; as Paulo Bacigalup says, “palace intrigues, desert rebellions, kidnappings, forbidden romance, bloody betrayals, along with not a little time at the banquet table.” I loved it, would highly recommend it, and am looking forward to reading the sequel, The Crown of Embers. The third book, The Bitter Kingdom, is coming out in late August.

423 pages.

Rating: *****