The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
I’m going to preface this review by saying this is 100% a BUY IT! book.
“But Rachel,” you might say. “I thought you were trying to help us save money! All you’re doing is telling us to go buy lots of books!”
Yes, dear reader, this is true.
We have only just begun, so we’re currently reviewing books that we’ve read within the past year and want to talk about. And let’s face it – the books that stick with us are the ones we loved loved loved!
But never fear…as books continue to be released, a greater variety of reviews shall come (and remember, just because we say to BUY IT! doesn’t mean you can’t decide that a book isn’t for you or you’re a-okay with getting it from the library).
And now….ONWARDS TO THE REVIEW!
When I first heard about Girl of Fire and Thorns, I was so excited. I love finding great fantasy worlds in YA books, and Girl of Fire and Thorns did not disappoint. The world Rae Carson built was absolutely incredible. Beyond just the physical aspects of the world, Rae did a fantastic job of creating an entire culture. A lot of the culture was based around Spanish themes, but not so much so that it felt like the book was just stealing from our world to make its own.
One of my favorite parts about the culture was the way Rae seamlessly wove Spanish (and other romance-language-based words) into the novel without beating us over the head that “I used this word and this is what it means.” Even without knowing the language at all you could figure out what it meant from context – but it gave more insight into the culture than simply using an English version of the word.
My other favorite part of the culture was the religion. That’s right – Rae Carson has some serious metaphoric authorial balls. Like the language, the religion was woven seamlessly into the plot. I felt like if I wanted to practice the religion I could, but it wasn’t such a huge element that I felt beaten over the head with “THIS IS THE RELIGION. FOLLOW IT OR DIE.” It simply made the world seem that much more real and relatable.
Worlds alone do not a great book make (some Yoda wisdom for you). One must populate the world with characters (as much fun as it is to watch magical fantasy grass grow, it doesn’t tend to sell very well…). Rae Carson created characters of all shapes and sizes, and I loved each one for his or her own reason.
Elisa, the main character, is not your typical lead. She is fat, she doesn’t really have any useful skills, and she has absolutely no self-esteem whatsoever. Yet for some reason she was blessed with the Godstone, which in theory makes her the most special person in the world (not that she believes it). One of my favorite parts of Girl of Fire and Thorns was watching Elisa grow from an almost worthless girl into someone who learns to fight for what she believes, take charge, and – most importantly of all – have confidence in herself.
The other characters each help Elisa develop and come into her own, each in their own way: through romance, friendship, guidance, and a little tough love. Yes, there’s a bit of a love triangle in the book, but what I loved was that the triangle did not in any way become the focus of it. This was not about Elisa choosing a boy – this was about Elisa choosing HERSELF, and that made all the difference. Although I will admit, speaking of boys, I’m excited to see what happens with a certain character in the next book…
Finally, it wouldn’t be a great book unless the plot managed to pull all the elements together. Although the plot doesn’t truly kick in until halfway through the book, once it does, it’s full speed ahead, with a string of mini-climaxes all leading up to one final climactic battle.
I honestly can’t recommend this book enough, if you can’t tell from the thoroughness and length of this review. (Oops!)
Girl of Fire and Thorns is the first in a series, although the book wraps up fairly nicely, so don’t be afraid to start it! Let me know what you think, and come join me in waiting for the sequel, Crown of Embers, coming out October 18, 2012!