Fantasy haters need not apply to reading this book review. If the word worldbuilding has no particular meaning to you, if you have no idea who Tamora Pierce is, if you cringe at the thought of epic fantasy, The Girl Of Fire And Thorns by Rae Carson is not the book for you. If you love a hero journey where a character finds themselves, get on this book stat. If you love when characters die out of left field, hop onto The Girl of Fire And Thorns love train. If you prefer your books to have legit endings, even when they are part of a series, pick up a copy of Rae Carson’s debut.
Elisa, princess of Orovalle, is chosen by God on the day of her naming. He magically puts a Godstone in her navel meaning she is marked for greatness. And so The Girl Of Fire And Thorns begins with Elisa being married off to Prince Alejandro who is mad hot and she believes is too good for her because she’s packing on the pounds. So, their marriage starts off relatively loveless, but amiable. Elisa then travels to Joya d’Arena, where Alejandro is in charge. It’s a perilous journey. And when they get there, Elisa discovers she doesn’t fit in because everyone except her is thin. Then more things happen, but in the interest of being spoiler free, there is a DESERT (YAY I LOVE DESERT SETTING) and magic and awesome. Actually awesome is more a descriptor than an object, but just know that Rae Carson’s book contains multitudes of awesome within.
I’m not even sure what element to write about first. I guess I can go with the worldbuilding. I think I’ve seen reviews bitching about how slow the book starts off. To which I wave my fantasy fangirl card in the air and say why yes Virgina, occasionally fantasy books start off slow, because the author has to set up a believable world, and yo Rome was not built in a day, bro. Carson manages to create a complex, believable religious system, without overwhelming the reader. Much of Elisa’s beliefs in God and purpose drive The Girl Of Fire And Thorns. Further, I would say what happens in the desert scenes and how they manage to survive also strike me as believable. Granted, I have never been to a desert, but I’ve read about them and this book seems to fall in line with what I’ve read. However, one bit of worldbuilding that may have enhanced this book? A map. Seriously, maps are awesome and show that a fantasy novel is legit.
Carson’s writing is nothing to sneeze at and I love that she follows the path of the greats in her chosen genre: Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. What does she have in common? WELL, friends, I could not read the works of the aforementioned writers without doing a fist pump, and I know I totally fistpumped it like it’s hot while reading The Girl Of Fire And Thorns. I was absolutely gripped by this book. I could barely set it down, even when life responsibilities were calling me. I mean, I get all hot and bothered by war and revolutions and heroes of the people, so, you can probably imagine just how focused I was on Carson’s plotting. FYI, the pace, it’s not for tortoises.
I honestly think The Girl Of Fire And Thorns is a great book to put people on the road to epic high fantasy. It’s pretty much high fantasy lite, in that you don’t get 30 pages of a sword battle, or 15 pages depicting walking trees, although ents are baller, beginners may not love that kind of thing. SO, this is the book you hand to someone who says ‘I think I want to try fantasy but don’t know where to start.’
Also, there’s a heavy Spanish flavor in Carson’s debut, which is fierce. I loved the names, the names of the towns as well. I liked that it wasn’t totally English-type names. Oh and there are dark people, like everyone is not lily white.
Further, I saw a review of this where they found the Elisa”s weight loss to be offensive and just want to touch on that. Yo, when you stop eating junk and start exercising, which Elisa did, weight comes off. It’s as simple as that. And for some people, most I think, losing weight usually helps to boost one’s confidence, therefore, Elisa is feeling more confident and sure of herself and ready to step into the role which her Godstone has set her up for. And it’s fine to disagree with me, I am cool with that, but I just don’t see how losing weight can possibly be offensive, it’s not like she’s got an eating disorder or anything, it’s just that she is no longer turning to food to eat away her feelings.
That out of the way, I thought the ending was perfect. There were no loose strings, but I could see how the door was left open for a sequel. HOWEVER, The Girl Of Fire And Thorns could perfectly stand alone, and that’s how I feel all series should be.
Sidebar: Look at the UK cover!! I love it way more than the US cover, it’s just so desert-esque and lovely and awesome and look look a person of color!
Disclosure: Received for review at BEA.