Friday, October 26, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

So, I've been in another reading funk of late. I realized the other day that my reading habit tend to be very cyclical. I'll go through periods of voracious reading, eating up novels by the handful. Then, one day I'll get sick of it and stop for a while. Sometimes I just feel like doing something else, others I've gotten ahold of a dud of a book and it puts me off. During this non-reading period, no book will appeal and attempting to read results in a whole lot of starting and stopping. Anyone else experience the same?

I was finally pulled out of my funk about a week ago, when my colleague, Melissa (for whom I'm still doing an adoption fundraiser until Nov 1!), pushed a couple YA books into my hands. One of these was The Girl of Fire and Thorns. (what is it with Girl of... title variations lately?)

The Basics
Carson, Rae. The Girl of Fire and Thorns. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2011. Print.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was Carson first book and the start of a planned trilogy. Carson freely admits to being a nerd (as she should, nerds are the best) and has been writing since childhood. She bounced around careers for a while before she was finally able to realize a dream of becoming a full-time writer (*jealous*).  Her first book is set in time of horses, carriages and war. Princess Elisa, our protagonist, was chosen by God to bear a Godstone in her navel, marking her as a future hero from her naming day on.  On her 16th birthday she's married to the King of a neighboring land who desperately needs her to live up to the hype. Unfortunately, she's always been a bit of a screw-up: though wildly intelligent, she lacks interest in the duties of royal to a kingdom and she overeats to cope with her insecurities. Sound like a long shot? No worries even unlikely heroes save the day.

The Book
I loved this book. I read it with as little ceasing as possible in about 2 days. I find that it's one of those YA books that crosses the age divide from Young Adult to Adult quite well. The complexity of the world Carson creates and the excellent writing allows it to bridge that gap with ease.

Elisa is a great character. She's not your typical heroine. For one thing, she has a problem with weight, as she tends to eat any food within reach in a nervous habit for comfort. But there's a lot more to her than that (looking past the surface of things is part of the point). She's also highly intelligent and a genius at strategy. While her upbringing has left her a little self-centered, she's caring at heart. I'm inclined to disagree that with a few critics who claim the only noticeable character growth is Elisa's shrinking weight. Such critiques have missed the point. Elisa's eating is a symptom not the focus; she eats because she's insecure: she feels unworthy and unable to meet everyone's expectations and lives in her sister's shadow. Long before the weight loss starts to occur, Elisa's growth as a character begins when she starts to wake up to her surroundings. She leaves the comfort of home and opens her eyes as she does so. She starts to see the world and its problems; she begins to see the people closest to her and seeks to learn about them rather than what they do for her. When she reaches her new home, she begins to feel ambition, the first inklings of her wanting to start living up to her Godstone. The forced trek across the desert isn't a plot device to shed pounds (and really, what do you expect when you're walking for a month or more?), but rather a place for Elisa to begin to find her own strength. She no longer has the luxury of laziness and wallowing in the belief that she can't work towards anything, because now she has to. She continues to grow into a strong and worthy young woman over the course of the book; the weight loss is simply a physical manifestation of that process, a visible metaphor.

I also enjoyed how different the setting of this book was. It wasn't really medieval, as so many fantasies are. Instead, I would class it as more 17th century in terms of technology and social graces. But that's not even the best part. Carson moves outside of the pseudo-European scenery and sets the book in a more southern clime: think Spain and Morocco. The Spanish/Portuguese influence to the language, religion and culture is very evident throughout the book. Elisa's home country Orovalle struck me as very like the landscape of Spain and she moves from there to a desert country, which Carson describes beautifully. It all made for a refreshingly different sort of read.

The plot of the book doesn't disappoint, either. It moves along quite believably, with plenty of hiccups along the way to keep everything from seeming perfect. In fact, there's not a lot perfect to be had for our poor heroine. But, that's what makes this such a good read, Carson makes both her characters and her readers work for a decent ending. You'll want to smack Elisa into being better, but you'll root for her to win, too. She's very human: flawed but lovable. Carson also invests plenty of grit into the story. This is definitely a book for older teens, since it doesn't shy away from the realities of war and a harsh landscape.

So, seriously, go read this book already!


  • Visit Rae Carson's website for more information about her world and a peek at the sequels to this book.
  • In her FAQ, Carson interestingly points out that she is not the author of an extensive amount of Harry Potter fanfiction and directs you instead to this person. Heh heh.
  • Her husband is also an author. Pretty spiffy.



  1. Thanks for linking this in, Haley. Have a good week.

  2. Nice post. Thanks.

    Stopping by from Carole's November Books I Loved. I am in that list as #2.

    Silver's Reviews

    1. Thanks for reading! I'll make sure to check out your post, too!

  3. thanks for linking this in again Haley. Have a great week.

  4. My featured book is SEVEN LOCKS.

    Stopping by from Carole's January Books I Loved. I am in that list as #46 for January. I was #2 in November. :)

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I've not read Seven Locks, I'll go check out your post.


You know you want to . . .