Thursday, 27 June 2013

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)
Source: Goodreads

Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns trilogy #1
Published: 2011 by Gollancz (Orion Publishing Group)
Where I got the book from: the library
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis from Goodreads

 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. 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 seeks 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.

My thoughts

There has been a lot of hype in the blogosphere about Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns and I had my hopes very high for this first novel in a fantasy trilogy. I am so glad to say that Elisa’s story mesmerized me from the very first chapter and without doubt lived up to my expectations.
Being an overweight princess, outshined by a beautiful and wise sister and practically ignored by her father is not the easiest fate for Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza, and it is no less challenging for her to also be God’s chosen one, the Godstone bearer which is selected every one hundred years. When Elisa is abruptly married off to the king of a neighbouring land on her birthday, everything changes. Girl of Fire and Thorns is as much of a story of a young girl’s evolution from overshadowed into admired as a unique fantasy adventure with riveting characters.
I have a weak spot for fictional approaches to religion – not quite sure why I find it such an appealing aspect as I am not a particularly religious person myself – and this novel definitely aced that part. The Godstones, the rituals, the Scriptura Sancta and the Belleza Guerra are all so well thought out, original and convincing that I can only give praise to Carson’s imagination. The different sides to and interpretations of faith are also thought-provokingly written.
Moreover, Carson’s writing is fresh and appealing; I couldn’t get enough of it. While traditional high fantasy novels tend to have long and detailed descriptions, Girl of Fire and Thorns uses a more modern style with crisp, to-the-point prose with vibrant vocabulary that creates an engaging tale and a vivid series of images in the reader’s mind. The settings, tangible and constructed with skill, were amazing and definitely an aspect that is core to the novel. Orovalle, Brisadulce, the desert… It was all intoxicating, fascinating because the world-building is amazingly believable.
The cast of characters is diverse and their actions pleasantly unforeseeable. Though I never actually felt a bond with Lady Aneaxi, the rest of the characters have depth, interesting agendas and distinct personalities. I especially appreciate the way Ximena and Cosmé are gradually introduced and given well-fleshed personalities. Most of all I love Elisa herself – somehow I find her immensely relatable, likeable and admirable, and it was encouraging to witness how she changes as a person. The challenges she encounters, both within herself and physically, made her someone to sympathize with, especially as she succeeds in defeating fears, insecurities and difficult problems. The romantic interest – whose name I won’t mention in fear of spoiling – didn’t dazzle me, but I like the person and think that what eventually happens is a surprising and actually good turn of events - this hardly ever occurs in books. In the following instalments I want to find out more about Lord Hector because he seems so steadfast and intelligent. I'd love it if Ximena also got more action!
If I have to find some flaw, then it is that though I love the title, I can’t quite comprehend what it’s relation to the story is, meaning that it’s not obvious or anything. I suppose I have my own theory about what it could mean but usually I prefer titles that make clear sense after reading the book. Of course this is only my own opinion and somebody else could argue that the title is perfect for this novel. Another concern I do have is that what happened to a certain character in the very end was rather convenient in a way, perhaps a little too neat – I might have preferred that this would not have taken place at least not just yet. On the other hand, this could be another situation that matures Elisa and gives her new opportunities to prove herself. However, these two things that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with in no way changed my experience or overall opinion of The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I can say with confidence that it is one of my favourite fantasy reads this year.

5/5 Exotic fantasy and an unconventional main character, along with vibrantly described scenery and a brilliant story itself!


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