On her 16th birthday, Elisa is wed to Alejandro – the king of a neighboring country whom she has never met. The marriage is a political one and Elisa, shy and nervous, would be content to be a lifelong wallflower and let her sister and father worry about politics. For Elisa, though, that will never happen because she also happens to be the bearer of the Godstone – a jewel placed in the belly of a chosen child on his or her naming day by God himself, marking the child for God’s chosen one. As Elisa leaves her home to go to a foreign country she is plunged into a world of political strategizing, greed, deception and sorcery. She must also contend with the fact that there are those who wish to eliminate the bearer of the Godstone and take its power for themselves.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns is 400 pages of high fantasy action and adventure, but it is also the tale of one spoiled young princess becoming a strong young woman. Elisa struggles with her weight and actually wishes for an ugly husband, so that she cannot disappoint him with her appearance. She’s loving toward her handmaids but also is self-absorbed and stubborn. Despite these last traits (or heck, maybe even because of them), Elisa is easy to relate to and I was rooting for her from the first page.
Carson does an excellent job of painting Elisa as a teenage girl on the cusp of becoming a woman. She is smart and tough but hasn’t yet figured out how to apply those traits to the world around her. As the events of the book unfold, she’s thrust into sink-or-swim situations and she becomes not only a survivor, but a fighter, proud and strong. There is a hint of a love triangle that develops, and while I was initially annoyed by this overplayed trope, Carson turned the tired out scenario right on its head, leaving me pleasantly surprised.
Surprises are something this book is not short on. There were several situations in which I thought I knew exactly what would play out, but I was so wrong (and happy to be so wrong). Carson keeps up a fast pace and so many developments occur that I wonder what will happen in the next two books. Yes it is a trilogy, but for once I am beyond excited to dive in to the next installment. In fact, I just got the next two as a Christmas gift, so I will be delving in shortly!
In a YA market crowded with supernatural and fantasy books, Carson’s excellent writing and character development make her stand out amongst the crowd. If you’re a fan of high fantasy with a kick-ass female protagonist (think Graceling) then I would recommend giving this book a go, I don’t think you will be disappointed.