The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Rae Carson)

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: "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 seeks 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."

The parts I enjoyed most about this book were the details of the world. I really liked the way Carson described the geography of the kingdoms, the jungle, the desert. The culture was rich, and the religion, which is central to the story, is well-integrated into the world.

Unfortunately I found a few things a little troubling. Elisa, the heroine, is fat. In the beginning of the book, she constantly disparages herself because of her weight, and when she is married to a handsome king from another land, she despairs of ever being able to connect with him on a romantic level. Throughout the story Elisa comes into her own and finds her self-worth and confidence, which is great. However, this transformation coincides almost exactly with a part of the book where she inadvertently loses a lot of weight. While Carson might not have intended this, it concerns me that this overweight, self-conscious girl with a brilliant mind can only find the confidence to use that mind (and save the day) after she has lost weight.

There were parts of the book I found really simplistic. While I appreciated the religious aspects and the idea that Elisa really grappled with her faith to come to an understanding of her place in the world, the way that the religious disagreements between kingdoms was presented seemed a little on the surface and obvious. There are a few other things like this that set The Girl of Fire and Thorns apart from others in the same genre, but for the most part the plot twists and turns were predictable, and as a result, not that compelling.

One last thing I quite liked: One would assume that since the book begins with a wedding between Elisa and King Alejandro, the two will eventually fall in love with each other and be happy. I'm not going to give away exactly what happens, but I can assure you that Elisa's romantic entanglements are not nearly that straightforward, which I loved.

Final thoughts: It's a diverting read, but a little simplistic and reminiscent of others in the genre. I also found Elisa troubling as a role model.

Source: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher.

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