Monday, February 4, 2013

The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is not a typical teenager, she is a princess of Orovalle and the chosen one, the bearer of the Godstone.  Once every one hundred years a child is blessed with a Godstone, the mark of a great destiny in their future.  She knows she is different and special, but she doesn't feel her worth and can't understand why god chose her, the useless second daughter who knows people laugh behind her back because her clothes get bigger each year and because she can not compete with the grace and intelligence of her older, perfect sister.  For years she has felt that god made a mistake, that she is not really the chosen one, even though the Godstone throbs with a gentle warmth every time she prays.  She seems destined for a rather boring life, until she is discovers that her father has agreed to marry her to King Alejandro - a man she has never met.

Taken away to his kingdom she barely escapes with her life when their caravan is attacked, and once she enters her new home she discovers that she is his wife in secret only, that he does not wish to acknowledge their marriage to his people.  Confused, Elisa tries to make herself at home in her new kingdom, but there are secrets surrounding her Godstone, secrets that she must uncover if she is to understand her stone and her destiny.  When circumstances find her far from any home she has ever known, Elisa discovers that she is not as useless as she has always believed, that her Godstone may in fact lead her to a great destiny - but at what cost?

The girl of fire and thorns feels a little bit like the old fantasy for teenagers (not a bad thing at all considering the current trend for vampires and werewolves).  Set in an ancient land that has a flavour of Spain with a dash of desert nomads, the story is sweeping with a rich history and a touch of magic that comes from an unexpected source.  The mythology is interesting, and while there are references to god it isn't about our god or Christianity, it is about a god that saved the people of the world and sends a "champion" of sorts every 100 years to help his people.  There are references to religious texts, complete with quoted passages, but it doesn't distract from the story.  An epic story that felt a little stilted in the writing, but which was very satisfying as a whole.

One of the best things about this story is that you can see the growth of the characters, particularly Elisa.  Too often in fantasy novels the hero or heroine is amazing from the start, a strong character that drives the story forward, facing any challenge in their way with grace and a strong will.  Elisa is different, she is full of self doubt and as the story unfolds you get to know the real Elisa, the one that just needed a chance to shine through.  The cast built around her are the same, they shift and grow as the story progresses - and there are some stereotyped characters that get knocked into reality through the course of the story.  I have requested The crown of embers so I can see what happens next for Elisa and her world.

If you like this book then try:
  • The crown of embers by Rae Carson
  • Alanna the first adventure by Tamora Pierce
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • The blue sword by Robin McKinley
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor

Reviewed by Brilla

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