The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Published by Harper Collins on September 20th 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 448
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The first book in the acclaimed and award winning New York Times bestselling trilogy. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a remarkable novel full of adventure, sorcery, heartbreak, and power. "I stayed up until two a.m. reading this last night. Intense, unique. . . . Definitely recommended."—Veronica Roth, author of the best-selling Divergent series
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. 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. "A page-turner with broad appeal."—Publishers Weekly
Supports the Common Core State Standards

I feel torn about The Girl of Fire and Thorns.
On the one hand, there’s not much room to accuse this book of being slow – the action is constant, zipping along from a bloody battle, to a lusty encounter (PG-13, of course), to another dramatic reveal, to a kidnapping. Elisa’s life spins off in a crazy new direction that starts with her marriage to a King of a nearby country in chapter one, and the pacing never slows down after that.
Elisa is a 16-year-old princess and was born the bearer of a Godstone (a literal gift from God that rests in her navel). Because of this, Elisa must follow in the footsteps of other Godstone-bearers and perform a special service to God. Nobody knows what it will be. In fact, Elisa knows very little about her destiny and the lives of those who came before her. Many secrets will be revealed as the story moves along.
To be honest, though, the action only barely masks an incredibly messy and ill-conceived plot. Despite being a very different kind of story, I would compare it to books like Divergent and The Maze Runner, in that it has lots of flashy action and fast pacing, but underneath there lurks mediocre writing, all tell and no show, and flat characters separated into the “beautiful” and the unattractive/fat.
Elisa is characterized by her fatness. Am I glad that authors are creating heroines that are not all skinny, beautiful, white girls? Of course I am. But I feel like being fat and unattractive is the defining characteristic of Elisa. It might make her different, but alone it’s not enough to make her interesting.
I recently read Sugar – another book about an overweight girl – and the protagonist’s characterization is fascinating. I understood her complex relationship with food, her need to constantly eat, and her self-loathing when she did. Elisa is so one-dimensional in comparison.
Also, I’m surprised many reviewers haven’t pointed out how… religious this is. I don’t know if Religious Fantasy is a sub-genre but I find myself thinking it should be to accommodate Carson’s book. Religion and praying play huge roles in this story. If you took the magical elements out, I could almost see this as your standard Christian novel.
I recommend this with some hesitation, and mainly to those who don’t mind an action-packed plot with little substance behind it.

One StarOne StarOne Star


  1. I’m so glad you pointed out the religious aspect of the book. I, too, felt that it depended heavily on religion which is fine, I don’t have a problem with it, but at times it felt almost too preachy for my tastes. As you said, take out the magic and you have yourself a standard Christian novel.
    But I thought the magical elements was pretty cool, especially considering how religion has treated the idea of magic in the past and vice versa.

    • Emily May

      Yeah, I was really surprised at just how religious it was. I don’t even know that I’d call it preachy, it just framed so much of the plot and story around the religious aspect. I’m hoping her new novel – Walk on Earth a Stranger – will be different.

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