The Girl of Fire and Thorns - by Rae Carson
The Girl of Fire and Thorns

"I felt like I started to know the characters like I know my own sister."

Different, yet engrossing, exciting, and unique is how I would describe The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Carson previously worked for a technology company as an inside sales rep where she experienced discrimination and harassment. She wasn't valued or credited for her ideas. She was made fun of for her appearance, and lies were told about her in an effort to diminish her contributions. Looking back, she realized that her body appearance was tied with her performance and that other women were behind most of the situations. Carson isn't the only one who has these things, thousands of women have experienced discrimination one way or another, and so does Elisa, the main character in Carson's book. At first, I believed that this was going to be just another book that I read that never got me interested. Man, I was wrong. After I read the first few chapters, I was hooked; I couldn't put it down.

Elisa is the typical stereotypical princess - spoiled, able to do whatever she wants. But she isn't your average princess; she is overweight, unappreciated, and lonely. Elisa is very undervalued by everyone, including her own family, considering she has the godstone buried in her navel the mark of a person chosen at birth once every century and destined for greatness.

Everything Elisa knows changes when she has to marry on her birthday. Married off to a complete stranger and kept a secret, Elisa still has no clue how she is supposed to be great. Hidden away, Elisa continues to feel like she isn't valued at all Being able to relate to this really made appreciate the author more since she didn't just make up these characters, but she made them relatable.

This is where I was thinking that this book wouldn't get me hooked like other books do, but my opinion changed right at a major plot twist. Elisa is kidnapped and is suddenly faced with new dangers and people. She has no clue what to do when she learns that the war has already started and everyone thinks that she can save them since she is the bearer of the godstone.

The author did an amazing job with this book. Little plot twists here and there, the intertwining of the plot and subplot, all the conflicts, and of course the romance made the book very well written. The characters were very well described, very authentic dialogue, and had a lot of depth. This depth in the characters allowed me to better understand what they were going through and how they felt. As the book progressed, I felt like I started to know the characters like I know my own sister.

Because I knew the characters so well and because the author has a very good style of writing, this book almost made me cry in some places. I typically never cry when reading books, so this was a huge shocker . Also, the author could make me laugh, which is always good.

My favorite part of this book was really the message of the book. Throughout the book, Elisa is not valued and has been asked many times why and how she could be the bearer/ chosen one, mainly because she is overweight and not the prettiest girl ever. But as the book progresses, Elisa changes and it seems like some people only like her now because her appearance changed. A woman's appearance is typically tied to what people think of them; in high school, the prettiest girls tend to be the most popular and the most liked. But the message of this book is that your performance or your ability shouldn't be based on your appearance, but who you actually are. Elisa is the model for these statements. The challenge is laid out before her, but she has a choice. Elisa can do nothing, run back to her husband, and ignore her destiny, or she can change and excel, proving everyone wrong.

When I first picked up this book, I thought I wasn't going to like it but that I was wrong. Action-packed, romanticized, and some interesting twists, Elisa captivated me in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

   - Rayna B.

"Elisa is forced to mature and figure out how she fits into the big picture."

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a beautifully written story, the first of a trilogy. Rae Carson, through her characterization, brings a story, set in the medieval period, to life. While reading the book, I enjoyed the simple language and could to relate to the main character Elisa, being a female teenage reader.

Imagine being told from infancy that you were born to do a great thing, possibly at the cost of your life. Consequently, you don't seem to recognize any good qualities in yourself and dread the day that you do this great deed. And you wonder, was I chosen by mistake? This is the plight of Elisa, the main character.

Elisa, a Princess of a medieval Kingdom, has always been under the shadow of her older sister, although she is The Chosen One. As the Chosen One she is destined to do a great deed for her nation, possibly at the expense of her life. The sign of her status is a God stone embedded in her navel. Elisa is unsure of herself and clumsy; she faces the many problems of being a teenager. This book details her journey to find the courage to become The Chosen One, beginning with her marriage to a king and becoming queen of a neighboring country.

This is a well written book with relatable characters. As a reader, I could understand the characters' fears, hopes and problems. I personally think that Elisa's character is quite underdeveloped, on the basis that her whole personality seems to revolve around the God Stone. But Carson successfully counters this with other colorful characters. I would call it a coming of age story since Elisa, through several events, is forced to mature and figure out how she fits into the big picture. Also, she is a refreshing take on a main character; she doesn't see herself as beautiful or strong, nor is she portrayed as having any advantages over any other characters.

There are hints of Christian themes in the story, although the author denies this. The main character, Elisa, is chosen by God for her great destiny, and she frequently refers to God in her thoughts and prayer - a result of her dread of being unable to accomplish the task of the Chosen One.

If you want a book which you can finish in a short period of time, this is the book for you. The language is modern, also, making it easy to read. However, I felt that the modern language took away from the setting of the story. While reading, I sometimes forgot that the story was set in medieval times.

The author's style is highly descriptive. For example, some battle scenes are described very vividly, with all the gory details. This heightens the sense of adventure that is present in the story. The book contains vividly portrayed violence. Also, interactions between the characters seem natural and flow in correspondence to the book.

I found the climax and resolution quite unsatisfactory. The climax just seems to fall into place, but I expected more chaos to lead up to the second installment. However, that is a petty comment. Despite that, I am really excited to get to read the next book, The Crown of Embers.

Overall, The Girl of Fire and Thorns left a good taste in my mouth, with regards to young adult novels, and I cannot wait for the second installment.

   - Victoria O.