Monday, April 9, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Rae Carson
Fire and Thorns #1
Published 2011 by Greenwillow (HarperCollins)
YA traditional fantasy
My Goodreads rating: 2 stars

Bite-Sized Review
After hearing some rave reviews for this book, I knew I had to pick it up. Traditional fantasy, magic, armed conflict – what more could you want in a book? Unfortunately, this one really wasn't for me, though it's certainly possible other people might like it.

King-Sized Review
This book took me a shockingly long time to get through. That's not usually a good sign. I was just never really captured by the story for a few reasons.

The first was a minor one: narrative. I am not, generally, a fan of first person present narratives. They can be extremely successful in making individual scenes more immediate and emotional, but it's too much to write a whole book like that. I find it quite jarring, more so in cases (like this) where I'm not really getting into the story, and it distracts me from the story itself. I must be in the minority though, because I see this increasingly in YA. So let's chalk that one up to "just me" in the dislike category and move on to more story-related things.

Elisa was never much of a character. She felt very flat, except for the times when it seemed that the author was trying her hardest to make Elisa seem pathetic. Elisa starts the book overweight, and in any other book I would have been interested by that difference from most books, but if there is a wrong way to show that not all heroines have to be slim, this was it. Elisa's weight problem arises from compulsive overeating, and she really only feels better about herself when she suddenly loses a lot of weight. Furthermore, that's also the moment she and [name redacted] start to fall in love. Elisa also has some very sudden changes in opinion that were too abrupt to seem really genuine. It isn't necessary to like the main character, but I do have to be able to sympathize with her. With Elisa, I felt nothing at all.

Princess Elisa bears a Godstone, granted to one child on their naming day every hundred years. But other than that, she's never done anything special – her sister is the clever and pretty one. Suddenly she's married to a neighboring king, but he wants her to keep their marriage – and the Godstone – secret. Unfortunately, secrets have a way of escaping, and any number of people would kill to get their hands on the Godstone.

The world wasn't bad. It was a little overly religious for my personal tastes, but that's mainly because I'm more accustomed to characters asking a lot more probing questions about the existence of god(s) than this book presented. The author wasn't pushy about the subject, though; it was just part of the story. The setting is a little bit Spanish medieval without the Islamic influence and with magic stones that connect the bearers to their god.

Characters: ehhhhh. While several of them did have believable flaws, those flaws at times seemed to encompass their entire personality, making them very difficult to sympathize with. King Alejandro, for example, had many flaws and few redeeming qualities, but the flaws were not the kind that made him an intriguing character. Maybe other people felt differently about the characters, but I just couldn't connect to any of them.

I did finally get into this book more in the last fifty pages or so. That wasn't enough for me to consider it a particularly good read, but I'm sure other people who are more interested in YA traditional fantasy could enjoy it more than I did.

Quality: Fair
Enjoyability: Fair

In the same aisle
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Priestess of the White by Trudi Canavan


  1. Great review! Though I'm sad you didn't like it that much ... I loved this book and had no problem getting into it. I agree it was quite religious ... that's never really bothered me, but I can see how it can be a turn off!

    I agree with your recommendation of Poison Study ... I thought of that one when I was reading this one. :)

  2. Unless the tale is complex or lengthy..."a shocking long time to read it" never a good sign. If I like a book..I consume it! Sorry you didn't connect with this one..great review!


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