Monday, October 10, 2011
Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Tags: YA, fantasy, magic, war, destiny
With the mysterious but mystical Godstone in her belly, Princess Lucero-Elisa has grown up knowing she has a special role to play, but she feels as far from a proper Godstone bearer as possible. Elisa is not beautiful or politically apt like her sister, and when she enters a political marriage with Alejandro, ruler of the neighboring kingdom, she’s immediately in over her head at the political games and shocking revelations surrounding her heritage and destiny. And yet, as Elisa learns more about her new people, she begins to invest in their—and her own—well-being with a strength that she never knew she had in her.
After a rocky start, Rae Carson’s debut novel, THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, quickly grew into a YA fantasy tour de force, with an admirable complexity and characterization that makes it worthy of consideration from every high fantasy fan.
Admittedly, approximately the first third of THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS was difficult for me to get into. I found it hard to connect with Elisa and her predicament of being the plain and passive princess who is supposed to have a big role.
The more I read, however, the more I respected—and then eventually loved—Elisa, her world, and the story. Elisa turned out to be a supremely capable protagonist of the highest caliber, who seemed to blossom with every page I eagerly absorbed. Her lifetime of dullness and dissatisfaction is what gives her clarity in her new role as a princess and Godstone-bearer that everyone looks to for inspiration and guidance. This is one heroine whose future, beyond the confines of this particular story, is quite clear: she will make a remarkable queen, mother, and wife, even if, happily, the first book in this trilogy leaves her future appealingly wide open.
At first I wasn’t quite convinced that Carson’s fantastical world was on par with those of fantasy masters such as Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley, but as THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS unfolded, I was happily proven wrong. Elisa’s world is every bit as complex, logical, and entwined in tradition and lore as a fantasy world should be. As Elisa extends her horizons and understandings, so does the scope of the story and the fictional world.
THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS is one of those rare few YA speculative fiction books published nowadays that proves that writing and world-building can still be complex and intriguing without being completely “overwhelmed” by an underwhelming romantic plotline. I wasn’t sure at the beginning, but Rae Carson fully won me over, and I now eagerly await the next installment in Elisa’s adventures!
Cover discussion: I wasn't a fan of the original cover, and I don't really feel that this is much better. There's something... contrived about both this cover and the old one: it doesn't have the effortlessness of fantasy covers I've liked in the past.
Greenwillow Books / Sept. 20, 2011 / Hardcover / 432pp. / $17.99
Requested for review through NetGalley.