The Girl of Fire and Thorns Review

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's so refreshing to switch to a different genre (well, sort of, because it's still YA) and get lost in a whole new world *cue Aladdin song*
...and with that I'm here to write about The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

I picked this book out because I saw some other readers I follow on Goodreads rate and review it, and I thought "Why not?" It's got all the themes I love, well honestly I only knew it was fantasy-related and probably edging somewhere near The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones but for YA. And I was right! I thought this was a great, light read that had a really strong and empowering female protagonist- which come on, all the themes I love again.

With that, I'll introduce Lucero-Elisa who is the second (and therefore youngest) daughter of King Orovalle. She's described in the beginning chapters as a stout young woman, just turning 16 on the very day of her marriage to King Alejandro de Vega. All her life she's seen herself as being insufficient and lowly to her older sister, Juana-Alodia, who is the opposite image of her; having a slim figure, high cheekbones and a charming personality Elisa sees everything in her sister that she is not and doesn't foresee herself to be. But what makes Elisa special is a unique blue stone that's embedded to her at birth; referred to as a Godstone, this divine gift is believed to be sent from God to a chosen human to mark them as a special bearer- someone who will prove to be most powerful. But Elisa feels anything but that, as her life's consolation has plainly been to "eat her feelings" alongside her strict devotion to religious texts.

Being married offers her no further support as she doesn't know why she's been matched with King Alejandro and whisked away so quickly from her home. Elisa's low expectations of herself and the Godly power that lies within her make her an unlikely heroine, but then again that's how all great stories start! The Girl of Fire and Thornes is exactly what the title says it is, it's a story following a young woman that is learning to grow into herself and make the decisions that transition you from an adolescent to an adult, with a few mishaps along the way. With so many expecting nothing out of her, or anything highly, Elisa transforms right before your eyes and takes you with her all across the country- through hot, sweltering deserts and steep, rough mountains. Oh, and don't forget to add in all the fantasy elements of this mysterious Godstone and the creatures you encounter later on. Guess you'll have to read to found out...and now on to my thoughts, meaning spoilers so do NOT read on if you have not read the book yet!

The book I ordered off Amazon came with "extras" at the end of the story, including an interview with Rae Carson and a short excerpt that Carson wrote herself on misogyny in the workforce. I loved that I got to read it because it offered a lot more insight into how Carson wanted to form Elisa's character and how she wanted readers to perceive her; not as just some plump princess who miraculously loses weight and then gets admired for it at the end. On the contrary, quoting directly from Carson's short passage Weighing In On Weight, she said "A woman has a right to have and enjoy whatever body her choices of circumstances give her...So, to my fellow women I make this resolution: I will commit to seeing beyond your breasts or fat or beauty to the essence of who you are. And I will vociferously defend your right to have your accomplishments acknowledged and lauded- no matter what you look like."

That is what I got out of Elisa and the whole essence of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I didn't really understand why the author chose to make a princess a bit on the heavier side when I first began reading, but I honestly didn't care and applauded it even when I didn't know the change that was coming. Even though Elisa was seen and even publicly called "fat" at one point, she was so smart and kindhearted that those who looked beyond her outer appearance could really admire her true persona. And even when Elisa loses the weight, those who loved and appreciated her from the beginning (or not quite, aka Cosme) still remained by her side because of her admirable qualities.

Apart from this empowering image of a princess, I liked the incorporation of religion. I think it's definitely different to incorporate so much it in a YA book, but like Carson said, "It seemed to me that deciding what one believes about religion in the face of so many conflicting messages is a much more important part of the coming-of-age experience than is necessarily represented in current teen lit." Even now as I'm getting to turn 23, I still have questions about what I do or don't believe in my religious doctrines. I had them when I was 15 and they never really went away, just grew in terms of being more aware of my surroundings and all the major "worldly" questions; moving away from home for college also didn't help, but made this awkward gap in my religious circle. And this isn't just me, I find that all my other friends and colleagues have gone or are going through the same thing- there's this questioning and a search for this higher power to seek for comfort even with the confusion by everything that's going on around us. So, Elisa trying to discover these things for herself but still holding true to her faith connected with me.

I'm sure these "spoilers" are more like analyzes of the novel, but hey, this girl right here appreciates critical thinking and thank goodness for writing as a medium to get it out of her system. Anyways, enough of my rambling. If any of you have read The Girl of Fire and Thorns or any of these extras by Rae Carson, let me know and maybe if you're feeling up to it discuss with me! I gave the book a 4/5 on Goodreads, as I felt that the ending was a bit rushed and tied up rather well. I mean I got the gist of the Godstone, sure there are questions, but now what? The Invierne seem to be fought off for the moment, so what other imminent threat is out there for Elisa? Also, can we talk about Humberto for a minute? (Humberto's post-death I also thought was a bit rushed and not really given enough thought to) Who is going to be Elisa's true love now?! I guess I'll have to continue on to the second book in the trilogy, The Crown of Embers, to find out.


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