Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae CarsonOnce 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.

I liked this book way more than I thought I would. The first chapter introduced me to a princess, corsets, an arranged marriage to a foreign (and handsome) king, and a mysterious jewel lodged in the belly of the main character. I was — deep sigh — both tired (of princess/royalty stories) and skeptical (A jewel in her belly? O-kay…). Thankfully, I was blown away by the depth and richness of Elisa’s story.

First off, this book carries many concepts I haven’t read much of in YA (or in general): the main character is overweight, there are deep religious roots in place, and the world is inspired by Hispanic culture and language. I have to applaud Carson for not only tackling all of these concepts in one novel, but doing a damn good job of it!

Elisa’s weight/size is a problem that feels real, and it affects much of her life. I saw one review complaning that Elisa’s weight had too much focus throughout the story, but I disagree. The way that her size hindered her abilities, influenced the reactions and opinions of others, and sometimes bolstered her effect toward someone was so real. But even more telling was the way that it affected Elisa internally. Her disordered eating, her self destructive behavior, and her emotional state because of her weight was something that I could relate to. Due to this, Elisa felt so believable to me.

The religious aspect was also quite interesting to me. In this novel, God feels real because the Godstone inside Elisa’s belly actually responds to her prayers. Elisa knows God is real because of her deep, intimate connection. In many stories, religion is used as a method of corruption for the people, and there is some of that in this tale, too. It was so delicately handled by Carson, though, that I was impressed. Each person or group believes they are doing “God’s will,” even though their plan differs from others, and Elisa is deeply aware of this. She has her own struggles with faith, doubts, religious studies, and her duty as a Godstone-bearer.

What I liked best about this book is that there are so many layers and each one feels rich, like one of those gourmet mousse cakes I used to make in pastry school. Elisa goes through so many transformations and they all feel relevant, important, and so darn real. She’s also probably one of the most conscientious main characters I’ve gotten to know in a YA novel, and I very much appreciated her thoughtfulness.

I recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for something different, and something with depth and character, or to anyone who just wants to read a good story.



My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

More of The Girl of Fire and Thorns: goodreads | amazon | official website

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