Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Series: Fire and Thorns Trilogy
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Green Willow Books
Took me a while, but I feel like we should talk about this book, nay this trilogy, by Rae Carson. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the first book in the Fire and Thorns series about a girl with a precious stone in her bellybutton and if you’re going to read any further I should probably warn you that this review will be riddled with spoilers. So continue reading at your own peril. Also, it’s been out since 2011, I’d be more worried about being spoiled by YOU. I know that doesn’t make sense, don’t look at me like that. Can we just get back to the task at hand? Thank you.
Lucero-Elisa’s a 16-year-old princess of Orovalle who’s been told all her life that she’s this chosen one who bears the Godstone, that stone lodged in her bellybutton I mentioned earlier. As far as protagonists go she’s pretty well-rounded, both physically (at first) and characteristically. She’s got quite an inferiority complex despite being constantly told she’s the ‘chosen one’, and eats her feelings- making her this doughy, rather unlikely, heroine upon first impression. Told in the first person narrative we’re sucked right into Elisa’s world and inner musings, right on her wedding day where she’s having trouble trying to fit into her wedding dress. Her, yes arranged, marriage to a widowed king, Alejandro (Alexander) de Vega, from a neighbouring kingdom- Joya D’Arena, is just the beginning of Elisa’s problems. Carson does a good job of conveying Elisa’s frustration with feeling like a second-rate citizen in her own royal family, especially when she describes her older (much better composed and beautiful) sister. After her wedding to Alejandro, Elisa is shipped off to Joya D’Arena with her new, rather pretty, husband and everything just goes so so wrong- and remains so for quite some time.
The book is first and foremost a bildungsroman, Elisa grows into her own over the course of the novel and it’s quite an interesting transformation from this nearly useless podgy character to a semi-useful sturdy heroine. As a character I see no Mary Sue-ish tendancies, Elisa’s far from perfect even towards the end of the novel. However she has her shining moments, when their company is attacked on their way to Joya D’Arena Elisa manages to save Alejandro’s life, who it seems was frozen in fear at the time, not even the handsome Alejandro is perfect. While she’s physically unfit at the start she’s well-versed in her world’s version of The Art of War.
When she’s kidnapped by a rebellion- which includes a maid who seemingly hates her, Cosmé and her dear sweet brother, Humberto- Elisa is dragged through the desert with them and comes out a better person for it. She loses a lot of the weight, I don’t recommend the Jesus-diet, and with her wit and the help of her trusty prayer stone lodged in her belly she becomes a powerful rebel leader as she experiences firsthand what war against the Inviernos is doing to the people of Joya D’Arena. Side note, as far as foes go, Inviernos are scary but have the most ridiculously long names.
I’ve heard the words ‘Christian-Lit’ thrown about in reference to this series and there are obvious parallels with Christianity- to the point where you think, am I reading Christian Lit? I’m talking, Judeo-Christians, our father who art in heaven, Christian. But it’s all very easy to overlook, for anyone who might be put off by the idea, especially when you factor in the jewels for belly-button magic business.
It’s an engrossing read, don’t just take it from me Tamora Pierce says so on the cover. Carson doesn’t just write a good main character, her secondary characters are all rather complex and fleshed out, with their own motives and stories. From the beautiful Condessa Ariña who’s got something going on with the King to Elisa’s crazy ninja nursemaid Ximena and the noble commander of the Kingsguard, Lord Hector who populate the world she’s created, to the beautifully crafted lands, all with their own characteristics, there’s something truly absorbing about Carson’s writing.
We’re left with the suitable amount of questions that’ll take us into the next installment of the trilogy, Crown of Embers. What with Alejandro dead, it’s now down to Elisa to watch things until Alejandro’s son is of age to take the throne. His death, in the end, was noble I think. The king was sort of a coward to begin with, wasn’t he? As charming as he was, a leader he was not.
Honourable [?] Mentions:
– Was it necessary for Humberto to die? Poor kid, but I suppose in the long run it’s for the best. It never would have worked out between them, unless Elisa was willing to abdicate for him. Extreme, maybe she could have kept a mancubine? (No, I am not struggling to hold in my laughter right now.) Is that the male version of a concubine? This is crass, I apologise.
– Let’s have a look at these covers shall we? It bears mentioning because who’s the girl on the cover here supposed to be? Certainly not the plump, dark-skinned Elisa. Apparently the publishers realised their mistake and changed the cover to that sparkly one up there where you can just make out someone’s face in a huge stone. Wouldn’t want to be accused of white-washing, would we?
Well done on the UK for getting Elisa’s colouring right, however.
– In the Fire and Thorns trilogy, the next Crown of Embers is next. Tune in?