The Girl of Fire and Thorns

It’s not often that I’m so enthralled by a book that it follows me into my dreams.  Well, that’s what happened with Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  I started reading this book earlier this week, and, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t get into it at first.  The past few days, however, I found myself eager to return to the world created in this amazing novel.  Last night, my dreams were fitful and centered around what the main character was going through and how she might prevail in the end.  As soon as I woke up this morning, I started reading again, and, with the exception of lunch, potty breaks, and a short nap, I read all day.  I finished the book a couple of hours ago, and I’m super eager to get my hands on the second book, The Crown of Embers.  For now, though, I must be content with reliving what happened in The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  Join me, won’t you?

At first glance, there’s really nothing special about Elisa.  Sure, she’s a princess, but she’s also chubby, not very graceful, has few talents to speak of, and she’s constantly compared to her beautiful, poised older sister. One thing, though, sets Elisa apart from everyone. She is the bearer of the Godstone–a stone in her naval that is believed to have been placed there by God Himself.  For this reason, she is destined to do great things…but she’s not sure what that means or if she can live up to her calling.

On her sixteenth birthday, Elisa’s life undergoes a drastic change.  She marries the handsome King Alejandro and leaves her comfortable life to journey to a new land and eventually become their queen.  Why was she chosen and not her sister?  Elisa is not sure, but she unites with Alejandro in an alliance that will benefit both of their homelands.

As Elisa travels to her new home, she is made aware of just how important she may be.  When enemies and allies alike learn that she is the bearer of the Godstone, it is made abundantly clear just why she was chosen to be Alejandro’s bride…and that her destiny is not one that will be easy.  There are those that would kill her for the power she possesses.  There are also those who would die to protect it…and her.

With war coming–and a powerful, horrific magic with it–it may be up to one scared but determined sixteen-year-old girl to save everyone and everything.  She will have help along the way, but, ultimately, Elisa must keep her faith alive and trust that the God who entrusted her with the precious Godstone will give her the strength and power she needs to live up to her destiny.

I haven’t done a very good job of explaining the events of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but it’s simply because it’s hard to put into words how excellent this book truly is.  It reminded me of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling books and even, at times, the tremendous works of J.R.R. Tolkein.  (Highest praise I can possibly give.) 

I loved how the heroine of the story was not your typical thin, waif-like, silly girl.  Elisa had some meat on her bones, she liked to eat, and she was often concerned with where her next meal was coming from.  (Finally, a character I can really relate to.)  She wasn’t the most confident person.  In fact, she was scared most of the time, but she showed those around her just what perseverance and bravery meant.  She kept on even though she doubted herself.

I don’t often say this about the YA fantasy that I come across, but, in addition to being a great book for high school libraries, I think The Girl of Fire and Thorns could find a place in church libraries.  Elisa is a character that many Christian teens and adults will identify with.  Even though she doubts herself and God on occasion, she keeps her faith strong and is in a constant state of prayer.  Even when things are bleakest, she trusts that God will see her through.  It’s a powerful message.

As you may have already figured out, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the first book in a trilogy.  The second book, The Crown of Embers, will be out in the fall of this year, and the third book, The Bitter Kingdom, is due out in the fall of 2013.  There will also be an eBook novella, The Shadow Cats, which will be available on July 17th.  For more information, visit http://www.raecarson.com/ or follow the author on Twitter @raecarson.

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