Release Date: 30 August 2011
Source: S&S Galley Grab
Wow...let's just say that this book plus Witchlanders by Lena Coakley have give me a whole new perspective on my "dislike" of fantasy. Obviously I just haven't been reading the right fantasy books!
The Girl of Fire and Thorns was a truly fabulous coming-of-age story. Elisa is married off to a foreigner on her sixteenth birthday, whisked off to a new land, and then hidden away as a secret. She can't reveal her Godstone and she can't reveal her marriage. Not the best start to a whole new life! She feels even more alone and worthless than she did in her home. What she doesn't realize is why it is so important to hide...and what could happen when her secrets are uncovered.
Elisa was such a dynamic character and I absolutely fell in love with her. At the beginning of the novel, we area introduced to a fifteen-almost-sixteen year old girl who is preparing for her out-of-the-blue wedding. She is clearly uncomfortable in her own skin. She's been chosen for some great act of Service, but she feels like it must have been a mistake. How can she ever be as successful as her beautiful older sister? How could anyone ever fall in love with an overweight, less-than-perfect naive Princess? Her lack of confidence is fed by the secretive nature of her marriage and the multitude of secrets that she is forced to keep when she arrives in her new husband's country. Elisa was such a fabulous character because you literally watch her grown up and come into her own. She is forced to embark on this harrowing journey and along the way she transforms into a strong young woman. She experiences the joy of first love and the pain of death that war brings.
The world and cast of characters that Rae Carson has presented in this book left me longing for more. The world is phenomenally and intelligently crafted. Carson's descriptions of the landscape gave me a real sense of the world without becoming cumbersome. In addition, her characters were understated but well-developed. We learn about them through Elisa's eyes and for me, that worked here. When characters were successful, I cheered, and when bad things happened to good people, I got upset (VERY upset in some cases).
The religious overtones of this novel took me by surprise. Not in a bad way--I just didn't expect it. I am sure that some people will find this to be a negative for the book, but I thought that it helped develop Elisa's character. It becomes the one trait that she holds on to throughout her transformation. It also never specifies that the god she is praying to is the Christian God. Since this is a fantasy novel, I think that point is definitely open to interpretation and best left to personal imaginations/beliefs.
My overall sense about this book is that it is the start to a fabulous trilogy that I cannot wait to devour. I must also applaud Carson for wrapping up this book without any major cliffhangers! The world and characters have a lot of room to grow and develop in future books, but I wasn't left beginning for a conclusion to a completely undeveloped (or suddenly new) plot line.
(As an extra aside, after reading this book, I'm even happier that they chose to change the cover for this book. The original was beautiful with it's swirling blues and beautiful girl in a dress, but it lends itself to the criticism that the publisher was white-washing and weight-washing. Elisa describes herself as dark and overweight--not the thin, pale girl who was on the original cover.)