TITLE: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
AUTHOR: Rae Carson
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins; Greenwillow Books
LENGTH: 432 pages
SUMMARY: (via raecarson.com) 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.
REVIEW: Elisa’s story is uniquely familiar. The traditional elements of a hero’s journey are present but are twisted somewhat to make her the agent of her own metamorphosis. Gifted with the heavy burden of the godstone and its history, K has to find a way to come into her power without the help of a mentor. As she finds strength in what once would have defeated her, Elisa comes to realize that making her own way in the world and standing by her decisions is the true path to power and identity.
The writing is complex and at times, it is easy to forget that one is reading a YA work. Carson seamlessly weaves a complex plot, filling it with multi-dimensional characters who are not always what they seem even to seasoned readers. The inclusion of faith is an interesting aspect to the story that many YA authors only vaguely touch upon. Elisa’s faith seems real and the questioning of her destiny in relation to a god who has gifted her with such a heavy burden seems genuine. The prayer in the story is realistic and lacks affect which makes it more believable than ritual prayer.
Carson has created a believable world and brings readers smoothly into Elisa’s reality. The world building here is subtle and based on the background knowledge readers will already have about medieval societies and their functions. The book begins with an arranged marriage for political advantage and then blends Elisa’s search for her true role in that society into the political machinations already at work. As a royal stripped of her power, the character has to find another way to identify herself and reclaim her power and position although not in the way she was born into living. The other characters are alluring and by turns readers will root for each one independently as Elisa tries to find the balance between the world she was born into and the world her decisions have created.