Yes, you read that right. Fat. I read an enormous amount of books. The amount of overweight heroes and chubby heroines is astoundingly small. Some authors believe that describing the main character as fat will make him or her less appealing to the reader. Often, in Young Adult books, everyone tends to be beautiful and thin.
Rae Carson threw all of those preconceptions away and created Elisa, who is, in my opinion a superb heroine even though she loves to stuff herself with pastries. Even in the beginning of the book you see that what Elisa lacks in stereotypical attractiveness she make up for it with intelligence. She is smart. She is surprisingly wise for her age. And she bears the Godstone.
When the book starts, Eliza is married to King Alessandro of Joya d’Arena. She does not know her husband and neither does he know her. Immediately after, Elisa journeys with her new husband and his men to Alessandro’s country and they are attacked by Perditos. Even though she’s not fit, Elisa still manages to save her husband’s life. She is taken to the palace and is demotivated when Alessandro doesn’t publicly announce that he’s married to her. But it’s not until she is kidnapped by desert people that the story really starts to unfold.
I don’t want to spoil the intricate plot, but I’ll tell you this: The Girl of Fire and Thorns is magnificently thought out and its execution is even more stellar. Elisa’s adventures take her from her royal life to the desert, and we start to know more about what it means to be God’s chosen. Elisa’s mind begins to sharpen as she strategizes against the enemy that’s about to invade her husband’s country.
Moreover, Rae Carson (and in this she reminds me of Scott Westerfeld in a particular part of Specials) has the guts to do what some authors can’t: kill off certain characters that have wormed their way into your heart. You won’t see it coming, and when it does, I can almost guarantee you you will be floored.
Carson also does a great job in the writing department. Her prose is fluid, elaborate without being complicated and, most of all, captivating. She crafted a fantasy universe that’s different from the norm. The names she chose for her characters have a more… Latin feel than in usual fantasy worlds.
But the most important part of the book—its heart, as you will—is Elisa. I cannot stress it enough on how she’s an amazing, compassionate, real character. How you connect with her, how she grows within you, how she reacts and plots, how compassionate she is to other people without being weak… She’s a fantastic character.
So, in short: The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a great, surprising book, a breath of fresh air in fantasy settings. And it also has one of the best characters I’ve seen in a long time. If you choose to read it—and I hope you do!—you will almost certainly be satisfied that you did. As for me… The sequel, The Crown of Embers is on the mail and I absolutely can’t wait for it to arrive so I can sit down with it and devour the continuation of Elisa’s journey.
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (21 Aug 2012)