Since I was a little girl, I’ve been heavily invested in high fantasy works. I read somewhere that this series was one of the best new works in high fantasy. High fantasy generally refers to works set in an imagined world with mystical creatures and/or magic. This book did NOT fit my idea of high fantasy.
That isn’t to say it wasn’t good. (Personally, I consider Tamora Pierce, who actually praised the book on the front, to be more my idea of high fantasy.) So, considering I was caught entirely off-guard, I’m not sure exactly HOW I can praise this book. Still, it IS fantasy which takes place in an imagined world and has somewhat of magic…it’s just there are no mystical creatures or elves or anything like that. There are “sorcerers,” but these sorcerers only possess magic because of religion. I find it hard to meld this brand of “magic from religion” into my common thinking of high fantasy (because, some parts of religion do seem to have or have what could appear to be magic).
Anyway, The Girl of Fire and Thorns makes an engrossing if unusual and unique read to the collective of YA fantasy works. After reading The Crown of Embers, I’ve definitely decided I love it. I think I just needed time to get really attached to Elisa and not be bewildered at the events.
The “spare” and reclusive princess, Lucero-Elisa of Oravalle, has been thrust into the midst of her much-quoted “destiny” by her secret marriage to the much older King Alejandro of Joya d’Arena to form an alliance to stand against the threatened Invierne war. This destiny? She is the bearer of a magical (or religious) talisman known as the Godstone which resides in her navel and was divinely placed there at birth. Bearers of the Godstone are rare and only happen every hundred years. At a newly turned sixteen, studious and quiet Elisa feels entirely inadequate of her destiny and her marriage. She’s not particularly pretty, and as she keeps pointing out, everyone can notice her particular love of pastries. However, as Alejandro’s secret wife even in his court, Elisa is uniquely positioned to notice the unrest and possibilities of scheming. However, despite her secluded and overlooked existence, Elisa possesses much more strength than she knows, but it will require pain and sacrifice to see just how much that inner strength can be power.
Spoilers are, as always, evident in sequels.
Queen Elisa’s city still burns with magical fire, and the Inviernos still threaten her people if she will not come to them. Her country is falling apart at the seams, and she cannot repair it and be a good queen until she stops the violence from Invierne. This requires divine power, something Elisa isn’t sure she has in her Godstone. Add to the fact that her leaders expect her to choose a suitor for marriage, someone is outmaneuvering (and dangerously exposing) her in the palace, and secret enemies keep trying to kill her makes for a rough time to figure things out. Luckily, Elisa has great friends and none more so than Hector and her former friends from the desert. She’ll need all of them and more if she is to find magical aid, especially in the wake of losing two of those dear to her. She has many things to learn about being and acting a queen, but none so painful as sacrificing oneself in love of another.
So I have a few comments after reading, but I’m not going to go into any religious ideas here. That’s the stuff of term papers. Also, I quite admire what Rae Carson has done in this series in this and multiple themes. One of the most unique is how a “fat” girl overcomes her coddling through a traumatic ordeal, takes her life back and makes it her own, and loses weight in the process. That’s a pretty positive message of ‘you have to work for what you want, and if you want to be healthy, then exercise!’ I didn’t like the girl Lucero-Elisa for quite some time, not until she was no longer a bystander, until she stood up for herself, became Lady Elisa, and worked for the good of others and herself.
Another idea I could not get past is just how confused she was with Alejandro, Humberto, and then Hector. I suppose you’re supposed to be confused when getting married to a much older man with a child on your sixteenth birthday, so I understand that. It would be extremely hard to feel as if you belong, but with Humberto…I was so frustrated! What is it about Elisa that makes men constantly lie down in front of her tent or in her tent near her to protect her? I expected innocence and naivety since she had never experienced any relationships with males before, but I was just…aggravated at how much nothing was happening! Perhaps I’m over-exaggerating. Or I’ve over-looked the fact that it’s much easier to fall in love with a young, kind, and honest kidnapper who doesn’t tell you much but saves your life. I would’ve liked to have known (or remembered?) how he fell in love with her when she was asleep…Seems a little hard to do. Still, I knew she belonged with Hector from the moment they met in the jungle. I absolutely adored him as time went on.
On which respect, I’m oh so frustrated to find out what happens in book three, out Fall 2013!
Rating: MUST READ! Loved it! Plan to buy in the future!
Next book? Through the Ever Night arrived in the mail today!
Edit: The Bitter Kingdom reviewed here.