Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Published: September 2011
Reviewed by: Sally
First line: Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom.
Last Line: For the first time in a long time, I am not afraid.
Favourite Line: She was wrong of course; my lips are like fat slugs and my eyes are far too small, overwhelmed as they are by cheeks like pomegranates.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns is an excellent fantasy adventure story. I say story, it reads more like an epic than it does your typical YA fiction tale. There is a historic Spanish backdrop to this tale which Carson details so intricately I found it very easy to place myself in the countries that she describes, both in terms of the landscape, the buildings, the clothes, the people and the food (Oh the food!!).
The main character is Elisa who, at the beginning of the story, begrudgingly finds herself being married off to the King of Joya d’Arena on her 16th birthday. Whilst her older sister is to ascend the throne in Orovalle, it is decreed that Elisa has been chosen to go into service. This is because of the appearance of the godstone, a living gem, which resides in her navel and which is given to her by god during her naming ceremony. Service we soon learn is a commitment to humanity and it is expected the Elisa will carry out an act in the future which will benefit mankind. It is also something that requires knowledge and courage and at the start of the story it becomes apparent that Elisa does not appear to have a great deal of the latter. Rather she sees herself as lazy, fat and useless in comparison to her sister.
With her new husband by her side she arrives in Joya d’Arena to find out that her marriage is a secret and soon discovers that not everyone is as trustworthy as they first appear. As she tries to determine her purpose as bearer of the godstone she is kidnapped and suddenly finds herself immersed in a dangerous world where she as the bearer is coveted and where only she is able to save those caught up in a bitter war which threatens her country as well as those she loves. Magic, sorcery and good old fashioned battles all have their place in this book and they make for an exciting read!
By the time I finished this book I felt as though I had gone on the journey with Elisa. I had seen her struggle with and beat her neuroses (mainly to do with her weight and her lack of self worth) and watched as her and her friends struggle in the war against the Inviernos. Her transformation through the book is wonderful to read and you find yourself cheering her on as she realises how strong she is. There are some fantastic characters in this book, most notably Alejandro, the husband who is not as strong as first thought; Rosario, his son from his first marriage; Cosme who becomes a good friend to Elisa, Humberto, Cosme’s brother and Hector, Alejandro’s personal guard. Each character is more complex than first appears and I love the way that their plot lines develop as well as the way they interact with Elisa, which isn’t always pleasant. There is of course a dash of romance but this is by no means a romantic YA story, far from it. There are bigger plot lines that run through this book that make for a thrilling read and one I found hard to put down.
The story is tied up quite nicely at the end of book one so you do feel a certain sense of closure when you reach the final page. I’ll be interested to see where book two picks up. I now also have a soft spot for certain characters in this series and I do harbour hopes for a romance in the next book. Fingers crossed!