When it comes to young adult lit, fantasy adventure isn’t something that has impressed me. Much of it is too centered on a romance or the plot is rather weak and unoriginal. I was a bit hesitant going into The Girl of Fire and Thorns because of all this. Now, after reading it, I must say that I was more than pleasantly surprised. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a sweeping fantasy that offers a slightly different kind of heroine.
I feel like we get a lot of this cookie-cutter heroine that comprises of a reluctant, athletic girl who needs to figure out her destiny. Author Rae Carson gives us someone different. Elisa is a sixteen year old princess, who is being married off to a king from a distant land. Elisa is smart and sheltered. She is also overweight and loves to eat. What makes Elisa special is that she possesses a Godstone. A Godstone is a magical gem that God puts in the navel of child he chooses to do a service for humankind. Having a Godstone is dangerous because many will hurt or kill a bearer in order to carve the gem out and take it for themselves. In order to protect her, her family marries her off to King Alejandro. This causes a turn of events that allows Elisa to come face-to-face with her destiny and purpose for bearing the Godstone.
There are many themes in this book. One of the obvious ones is religion. The first thing that I must put out is that it’s not suffocating. I know people get turned off by religion. This book doesn’t push religion out on you. There’s a lot of prayer, but that’s how Elisa connects with God through her Godstone. Her prayer is more reflective and magical than religious. She doesn’t practice an existing religion. Rather, Carson makes one up for this world. So don’t let this stop you!
Another theme is Elisa’s looks and self-esteem. Elisa is overweight and very aware of her eating habits. She loves food, and is constantly thinking when and what she’ll eat next. Her weight stops her from believing in herself, and many around her look at her with some distaste. Her reluctance and fear to accept her status as Queen and her destiny stems from the fact that she is fat. Carson took a risk making her lead character not look physically ideal. At times in the beginning, Elisa is a bit unlikable. She’s too stuck on how she looks. But that’s also what made her relatable. We have all dealt with insecurities. Some of us still do. But for the most part, when we’re sixteen, everything tends to feel worse. Carson gave her readers a lead character that we can identify all our good and bad with, and that’s what made me want to keep on reading.
Events happen that change her though. That’s the most interesting thing about her development as a character. She goes from this weak, lowly girl into a powerful, confident young woman. There’s so many things that happen throughout the story that makes her transformation convincing. Her journey is rather epic and cool. The plot is interesting and original. Elisa has been left in the dark most of her life, and so we discover and uncover mysteries with her. There is also a bit of a love story, which I won’t elaborate on, but I will say it’s quite touching. The rest of the characters aren’t as fully developed as Elisa. Honestly, I would’ve liked to understand them better. However, I’m hoping in the subsequent novels we are given that chance.
The descriptions of places and things are rich with details. Carson describes everything from the architecture to the food. The world of the Fire and Thorns novel is very Spanish influenced. Their language is somewhere in between Latin and Spanish. Most of the characters are described with dark hair and tan skin. The food dishes sound very familiar to Latin American cuisine. As someone of Latin descent, I appreciated the details and was able to relate it with something from my culture. Also, because of its predominant Spanish influence, it should be no surprise how religion plays a substantial role in the story.
If you’re looking for a great YA fantasy adventure, then The Girl of Fire and Thorns is definitely a must-read. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I can’t can’t CAN’T wait for the sequel to see what happens to Elisa next.