Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza may be the chosen princess of Orovalle but she doesn’t feel like it. Her older sister Juana-Alodia has all the grace, beauty, and confidence of a queen while Elisa feels childish, inelegant, and unbeautiful. But it was Elisa who was born with the blue, gem-like godstone in her navel, the only one of her century, destining her for greatness. So she will be marrying King Alejandro de Vega to form an alliance with his desert country of Joya d’Arena. Why her father has promised Alejandro troops or what her special act of service will be she knows not. However, quickly she realizes her true value as a bearer as more than one enemy seeks her life. What then is her purpose and will she die serving it?
The buzz for The Girl of Fire and Thorns was unavoidable last year. Elisa was hailed as the next big YA fantasy heroine, and comparisons to the likes of fantasy greats like Robin McKinley were thrown around. Needless to say I had reservedly high expectations. Without the glowing reviews and high comparisons I had been looking forward to it. A new YA fantasy novel seems like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the predominance of paranormal novels. It was with a happy heart that I picked up The Girl of Fire and Thorns when I was in need of a dose of teenage angst, fantasy and a strong heroine.
I’m glad that I waited for the right time because Rae Carson’s debut novel is ambitious in its scope. My favorite aspect of the novel was Elisa’s dramatic transformation from weak girl to powerful queen and rebel. I didn’t mind how much she changed physically; in fact, the novel issue of her weight made her stand out even more. I loved the first part of the novel – the awkwardness of marrying a man you’ve never met, travelling to a foreign land, and discovering the history of the godstone bearers and what that entails. But the plot moves and changes quickly. In its three parts it tackles issues such as arranged marriage, religion, court intrigue, kidnapping, rebellion, guerilla warfare, and sorcery to mention a few as well as introducing new characters in each part. Unfortunately with such a promising setup Carson didn’t need to take on that much, especially since it is the first book in a series. As a result some of the transitions felt disjointed and out of left field and many of the secondary characters were flat. Just as I was becoming pleasantly acquainted with said character Elisa’s situation would change leaving me pining for a more developed relationship with the characters Elisa left behind. As it was I didn’t feel like I really knew anyone except Elisa. Naturally, the romance suffered the most. It was disappointingly underdeveloped and not quite believable at the pace it happened. Still, while it personally might not have been my thing The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a good pick for a reluctant reader with it’s fast-pacing and ever-changing plot. With little character development outside of Elisa the jury is out on whether I will be reading the sequel.