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The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)
by Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do. (goodreads.com)

Yes, yes. I know. Another book where there’s a chosen one. Blah, blah, blah. BUT DO NOT TURN AWAY! Elisa might be a chosen one, but you’re not hit over the head with it in an irritating manner. Elisa is a well-written and enjoyable character who happens to be the chosen one, which makes this fantasy novel more of a coming of age novel than one about chosen things. Elisa starts out a semi-weak character, who is shy and doesn’t really like herself all that much. As the story unfolds she becomes quite the strong protagonist and the changes in herself even surprise her.

I had only one problem while reading this book and it was during the beginning of the story. I’ll get to that in a moment. Mostly, I want to semi-rave about the novel because it reminded me of the fantasy worlds that Maria V Snyder creates. There isn’t quite the same magic that captivated me as Snyder’s words did, but it was close. From the hispanic-influenced names and language, to the subtle quirks of the characters, I was enthralled by Elisa’s world and journey.

The novel is set in three parts and each part was nicely distinct. With each part of the story, Elisa grows more and you can see her get farther away from the girl she was on the first pages, yet, she remains the same all the time. Only her confidence in speaking up and making decisions comes forth. Things she was likely capable of doing on page one, but didn’t see herself as the sort of person who would speak up.

The supporting characters are all very well written, too. I even felt sadness for the loss of one early on in the story when we hadn’t even had much time together. I think Rae Carson did something wonderful there. She makes you feel for the characters almost instantly and nothing seems forced.  I didn’t think I’d ever warm up to Cosmé though. In fact I hated her pretty much throughout the entire story, even when I learned more about her. I just didn’t like her. Towards the end? Well, let’s just say I won’t be unhappy if she’s a big part of the second book.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was a sadder book than I was expecting. Just when you think you were going to be reading a cookie cutter type fantasy story, the author throws a curve in there and often I didn’t see those curves coming. I was expecting the story to turn out one way and it ended the farthest thing from my own guessing. I like that Elisa surprised me in her reactions to people and events around her. She’s a strong, quick-minded young woman by the end and I suppose I saw that shine through all the way through the book if I went back and read it now.

The problem I DID have was that there was way too much emphasis on Elisa being fat. I was sure that this was just another one of those stories where the main character is all “woe, is me! I am so plain and fat and ugly and no one shall ever love me” and yet every male falls over in love with her as soon as they see her. The fact that Elisa was fat was thrown around way too much at the start of the story and it was very discouraging. Turns out though, that perhaps she was overweight, as it’s mentioned through her desert journey that she slims down from little food and exercise (a month-long trek through a desert would do that to a person, I guess). I figure the people she was with were nothing but skeletons by the time they reached their destination. There was also the calling out of “You’re fat!” by a 6-year old boy, which I suppose was supposed to prove that Elisa was indeed overweight and not just saying she was fat. Of course there were all those references to how much she loved pastry and how she’d eat when upset. I just found it… unnecessary. I’m the last person to get all soapboxy and be, like, “We need better role models for the young and impressionable youth people! Make Barbie eat a cookie! Kill all supermodels!” but even I found the fat references too much.

I get the impression that Elisa wasn’t supposed to be that overweight. Maybe she was a size 12 rather than a size 4. Big deal. Why CAN’T we have larger, more normal-sized heroines in stories? Why can’t the lead males call someone beautiful who isn’t in the single digits clothing wise? Why do the overweight female leads get comments like “Your personality is what made me fall in love with you, it doesn’t matter what you look like”? It sort of irks me that people see Elisa in a different light at the end and some of it is related to the fact that she’s slimmer than when they last saw her, not JUST because of her actions.

Er.. so.. yeah. That was my only problem with the story and it was, honestly easy to look past once I got about 5 or 6 chapters in (despite the fact that it looks like I didn’t look past it at all if you read the above). Other things caught my attention and Elisa finally stops talking about her weight.

The other sort of problem I had, though it’s not really a problem is that I wasn’t sure what the final cover for this book was. I kept seeing the golden cover (above) a lot of places, but I’d see two other covers as well. One of which is the one just on the left here. This is the ARC I received from the publisher. I had to ask on twitter for confirmation of the final cover. This cover just made me cranky the more I’d read the book. You see, Elisa isn’t only “fat” she’s apparently got “very dark skin” that sets her apart from the others. I kept looking back at the cover as I was reading and trying to make sense of just what the heck the publisher was thinking. I am very happy they did NOT go with this cover because as I said to my husband “the skinny white girl on the cover just doesn’t quite do the overweight, dark-skinned, possibly hispanic-y or arabic-y main character justice”. Even with the actual cover, the reflection of the girl in the stone looks like a white girl to me. (Maybe I just see white girls, because I am a white girl?) I have never jumped on the white washing bandwagon, but this is just… thank goodness they didn’t use the ARC cover. I would have been very mad indeed!

But back to the story itself… This is exactly the type of fantasy I love. Sure, it didn’t have dragons or sorceresses, but it had a great new world for me to explore and characters that I enjoyed journeying with. It was also a nice change to read a fantasy novel that didn’t have Celtic mythology woven through it (although that is my ultimate FAVOURITE type of fantasy, just saying). I am very curious to see where the next book takes us since this story didn’t finish at all the way I thought it would. I am highly anticipating another unique journey through Elisa’s world!

Fire and Thorns

  1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns
  2. Crown of Embers – October 2012
  3. The Bitter Kingdom – 2013 (if the world ends in Dec 2012 & I don’t get to finish this series, I will be pissed!)

 

9 Comments

  • Krista

    I completely agree with you on the overstatement that the main character is fat. I got the point in the beginning of the book, but it is constantly repeated and emphasized throughout the whole book. The part that really upset me as far as the fat statements went is when they are traveling and it’s mentioned that she slows down the group and she makes too much noise..just because she’s heavier? I dunno I’m a heavy girl and I don’t sloth through the woods all loud and slow. I was a little disappointed in that myself, but thought the story was very well done overall and interesting.

    • Cat

      Thank you!! I don’t tend to notice these things, so the fact that it was obvious enough to make me feel uncomfortable about it made me think it might have been overstated. I was wondering if I was the only one who felt this way though, so it’s nice to know that others agree.

      The part about slowing down the group and the pain she was in from walking, made me think of myself when I was walking the picket lines earlier this month. I got what what intended but I think it was written in the wrong sort of way. Also, yes, I don’t make that much noise walking through the woods. I think maybe it was an indication that she wasn’t as stealthy as the others, BUT they were also TRAINED to be stealthy. I wouldn’t be the best ninja/spy/stealth person myself without training, no matter what my size!

  • April Books & Wine

    I fricken loved this book with the fire of a thousand suns. OMG. AND COSME. I hated her until the end.

    And YES to the off-ing of certain characters, why oh why Rachel Carson WHYYY.

    I’m still kind of sad about you know who. No names.

    Awesome review, Cat!

    • Cat

      Thanks, April! Your opinion means a lot to me. :mrgreen: Your review actually convinced me I needed to read this (I had already wanted to, but your mention of it being awesome high fantasy sealed the deal!) I was so happy to get a chance to review it. Sucky part is waiting A YEAR for the next book! It’s going to be frustrating!

  • Liz

    When she was going through the mountains and being klutzy I thought that wasn’t about her being fat at all (because she wasn’t at that point, anyway) but about her being studious and nerdy and not good at physical things. She spent her childhood reading the scriptures and their commentaries and learning the analogue of classical Latin.

    I felt pretty jarred by the heroine basically hating herself and feeling unworthy of being loved or even liked in the first part of the book and that she blamed that entirely on being fat. She got more confident through becoming a successful revolutionary general but she partly attributes her self confidence to being thin. In the last bits of the book she thinks to herself and says out loud to other characters that even if she goes back to binge eating scones at midnight in the palace kitchen and gets fatter again she knows now that people will like her anyway. Still– it remains a narrative arc of “miserable, self hating, fat person turns into sexy thin person” and I think that is a problem.

    Anyway, I will recommend this book to people for the many awesome things about it and for the great story but will definitely mention that it is potentially triggering about body image issues and internalized fatphobia. I’m very curious to read the next books.

    • Cat

      I am curious as to how finished the second book is, if at all. I wonder if any body image mentioned will be toned down or removed after the comments I have been seeing in the reviews for GoFaT (OMG! The title is GOFAT when you acronym it!! That can’t be a coincidence! :)). I’m not the only one who mentioned the “fat” references – and I NEVER bring up issues like that in my posts. I truly enjoyed this book and am very much looking forward to the sequel!

  • Pam

    I do totally agree with everything! I adored the book though, and as a fat person, I was like “you go ahead and eat that pastry baby.”

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