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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review - The Girl of Fire and Thorns

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.

I had intended to read this one slowly, but last night I found myself reading past 8 pm, past 10 pm, then I just thought, what the hell, I only have 100 pages left. Might as well finish it. And what a finish!! Rae Carlson delivered an ending that was both exhilarating and poignant. As the story is about a war, it was true to life. But I get ahead of myself.

Elisa is a character that I warmed to right away. She may have been a pampered princess, but I liked her personality. She was kind and sweet, but she also had fire and determination. Married off to a king she's never met, Elisa doesn't quite know what's expected of her. But her own expectations, of being treated like a queen, quickly vanish when her husband asks her to keep their marriage a secret. Elisa's confusion and humiliation are quick. It was so easy to imagine what this young girl was going through, even though, you know, I'm not a princess or anything. :)  Elisa let's us see thought that she's not someone to underestimate, even while she has her own doubts. As the story progresses, Elisa's strength of character grows and the book really becomes a coming of age story as well as an exciting fantasy adventure.

The secondary characters in the story were also well done, especially the character of Cosette. Aside: oh how I want to write a book with a character named Cosette!! :) Cosette comes to us first as Elisa's maid, but we soon learn there is much more to this young lady. She's also a travel guide, spy, doctor, and eventually... well, I don't want to give too many spoilers. I liked Cosette's toughness and how Elisa eventually breaks into that toughness to find a friend. Then there's Cosette's brother, Humberto who eventually becomes a love interest. Humberto seems less complex than his sister, and even somewhat more of a friend than suitor at times, but I still enjoyed him. King Alejandro - gosh how I wanted to like him. He seemed so nice at times and I don't quite blame Elisa for wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. I can see how a sixteen year old girl, naive to the ways of the world, could find herself falling for him; I probably would too.

It's not mentioned in the summary above, but there's an element of religion in this book that is profound while at the same time being understated, if that means any sense. There are no judgments, lessons etc., but there are some very clear messages presented that rang true for me. At one point, Elisa ponders how it is that everyone has their own clear "interpretation" of the holy words, yet she, as the bearer of the Godstone, has no idea what God means for her or her people. She also questions whether some of the enemy may have at one point been "chosen" as well, thereby acknowledging that they might not be as evil as everyone thinks. She contends that even in the midst of war, when there are those who are using God's gifts to conquer and expand their wealth, that the lives of the enemy are also a great loss.  There was so much to relate to here without feeling that over-bearing push you get with some authors who are trying to sell their religion. It's not what I expected with a fantasy, but it didn't feel at all out of place either.

As far as the writing, while I wasn't swooning over sentences, the author does an excellent job with visuals. The book feels like it's set in some part of Mexico, what with the names and descriptions, and it often gave me that sense of being transported to another world. The book was long, but I can't say that I was ever bored at any point - the plot moves along at a quick pace with twists and turns and many outcomes that I really didn't expect. 

Overall, this story is a win for me and I look forward to reading more of this series.


Vegan YA Nerds said...

I always enjoy books where I instantly like the main character, it makes it so much easier. I never mind when the religious element is just a small theme, not in your face.



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