My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Girl of Fire and Thorns is full of political intrigue, magic, and adventure. Set in a world reminiscent of medieval Spain, the story centers around Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza (aka Elisa), Orovalle’s second-born princess. Though she is royal, her privileged status comes less from her royal lineage, and more from being a Godstone-bearer.
Once a century, God chooses a bearer during a baby’s naming ceremony by placing a Godstone (a living jewel) on the baby’s navel. The Bearer is destined to perform an Act of Service, and the mythos surrounding the Bearer sets in motion harrowing challenges that Elisa must overcome.
What appeals to me the most is the sheer amount of terrain that Elisa covers throughout the story. I loved the big-ness of this world. I loved experiencing the lush climates of Orovalle; the seaside of Joya d’Arena; and the desert mountains of the rebel stronghold. I loved the concept that all these various countries and people groups are on the precipice of war. But, what I love most? Carson weaves these settings and power plays brilliantly through the narrative, making the countries so unique they were almost characters in themselves.
Speaking of characters, I thoroughly enjoyed every one of the secondary characters, primarily because they weren’t treated as secondary. Each character played a significant role in the political drama that unfolded, and I felt like I knew each one’s history and motivation. They were all flawed and honorable in their own unique ways, and I found that refreshing.
Though I enjoyed the secondary characters thoroughly, I admit that the one flaw would be the main character herself, Elisa. Throughout the book, she constantly fixates on how worthless she is, and I found her inner monologue to be disingenuous. I know that we all struggle with our sense of self-worth, but if Elisa showed me more of why she thought she was worthless (and continually telling herself, and thus the reader, that she is fat and stupid doesn’t count), I’d probably believe her sincerity. But, throughout, there were too many instances of her wisdom and strength, that I didn’t believe her self-deprecating monologue. In fact, if I mentally delete the times that Elisa focuses on her “fat and stupid” moments, I still get the feeling that she’s nervous and insecure, yet determined to do her duty, in a way that “feels” more genuine.
Overall, I enjoyed this debut, and look forward to the rest of the trilogy.