Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Why I chose this book:

What I expected and what I read were two completely different things where this book was concerned. So many of the book blogs I follow were tripping over themselves with love and adoration for this book. I figured I should read it and judge for myself.

Publisher: Greenwillow
Publish Date: September 20, 2011
Format: Paperback 
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy 
Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound








Summary:
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
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 seeks 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.

The 4 things you need to know about this book:

   1. What is the world like in this book, you ask? 
           Answer: An odd mixture of various cultures. 
   A) In most high fantasy novels, the world is based on a fantasy-driven medieval European history; this book is not. Though the culture is based in a quasi-European society it has major influences from the Arabic culture (due to the desert terrain), but it also involves a strong Spanish/Hispanic influence as well. Almost all of the names in this novel are Hispanic names such as Humberto, Alejandro, Rosario, etc. Not only the names, but much of the language found in this book is Spanish. Luckily, I know how to speak Spanish, so that helped translating a couple of words and sentences found in this book.

   B) As for the religion in this novel: it has a very warped Christianity, mostly based in Catholicism. It is high on tradition and ceremonies; monks and monasteries are present throughout the novel. Even Homer’s Afflatus (a sacred book that held prophecies about the holder of the Godstone) mimics the writings of Paul the apostle as seen in the Christian faith. Not only that but Homer’s life directly mimics that of Paul’s as well (Carson 179). Speaking of the Godstone, it marks a person as the chosen one, and Elisa is the holder. The way that Carson writes Elisa and her character, and the way the sacred scriptures speak of the chosen one is similar to that of the Christian Jesus. In The Girl of Fire and Thorns, they say “[The Godstone bearer] was led, like a pig to the slaughter” (Carson 181). This is very similar wording when speaking about the coming of the Messiah in the Christian Bible: “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). The similarities, yet very contrasting differences, make me curious just how religious Carson is, and makes me ask the question, why did she use Christianity as the basis for the religion of this series.

   2. Elisa’s character: To eat, or not to eat?
Obviously, weight is going to be a large theme in this book. Elisa’s character is over weight, and she is driven by her desire for food (only in the beginning of the novel). This can be a touchy subject for some readers, and an even harder one to tackle as an author. To be honest, I was unsure about how well Carson would be able to grasp this subject, especially since through Elisa’s journey, she loses the weight. To me this wreaked of ‘ugly duckling turned swan’ at the beginning, but as I read, I was able to see that it became less about her weight and more about her believing in herself and becoming the woman she is by the end of the novel. This is what I like to call character development. Kudos to Carson!

   3. Writing Style: non-emotional plot-based writing.
   The Girl of Fire and Thorns is written in first-person POV, and as most of you know, I detest first-person. I would give her more credit for using this point of view if she had written more emotionally. Carson is a very plot-based writer. I never felt a huge draw to any of characters. A number of people died in this book, and I never shed a single tear, nor did my heart do flip-flops (which is something that often happens when I’m attached to characters). The closest I got to that would be my affection for Hector, and he’s not even in half of the novel. She is very direct in conveying what is happening, but it’s almost as though it is written in unbiased format of sorts.

   4. Christian theology: A look into the religion of the realm.
   Like I mentioned before, there are many undeniable similarities between the religion found in this novel and the Christian religion. I’ve never read a young adult novel that was so deeply steeped in its religion. That was always a subplot in the books I have read, but this one is almost front and center and just as important as Elisa’s character development. However, the importance of the religion also comes with questions, and teenagers today, are asking these same questions that are seen in monastic Christianity. 
Such as:

   A)The novel talks of both good and evil sides of man (who we view as good guys or bad guys), and realizes that He could have chosen specific people to carry out an evil will in order that His divine(good) will triumph in the end. A restatement: Does God choose evil men to carry out a purpose, so His greater plan can be fulfilled? A heady topic, but a very good question, that some ask today. (Carson 252)

   B) They even talk about doctrinal and theological differences and philosophies within the religion. Much like Christianity argues predestination versus free-will, there are two different factions; some that are pro-Godstone and others that are pro-bearer. (Discussed on page 290).

   C) Discussed in this book is the idea of interpretation of God’s will. Some believe in a loose interpretations of their holy books, others believe in a literal interpretation (again, much like Christianity); however, that also can lead to misinterpretation of scripture. When this topic was broached (Carson 300), it reminded me a lot of the Crusades. People who wanted to conquer that area, said “God wills it,” and they attacked because “God’s will” was truly “their will.” Much blood was spilled because of this, and it’s the same with this novel.

   Final Thoughts:
   This is the first book in a series, and also a debut novel. Honestly, it’s a decent debut novel, though I hope in the rest of her books she becomes a better writer and dives more into the emotions of her characters. There was never a point in this novel that I just had to keep reading. Actually it took be about a month to read (which is pretty bad for me; I generally knock out a hard to read book in two or three weeks). 
   Even though, I wasn’t an adoring fan, I would be interested in reading the rest of this series, but if I had to buy the rest of the books, I would have to think twice about it.

I gave this book 2 stars on my Goodreads.


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