The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (2011)
Suggested age range: 12 and up
(Greenwillow Books, 432 pages)
Rating: 5/5 stars
I was captivated by Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns from its opening chapter. In the beginning, sixteen year old protagonist, Elisa, is being married off to a king she does not know. She is forced to travel with this stranger to his kingdom and say goodbye to her home, and her family. Adventure and danger ensue. Upon arrival she discovers the marriage is meant to remain secret—at least for a period of time. Elisa is powerful and brave, though she may not know it at the beginning of the book. She carries the Godstone, a gem that sets her apart as one who will carry out a significant task, and this is only given to one person a century. Her journey to a new kingdom, and the subsequent adventures and challenges that befall her there will keep you turning the pages of this fantasy. There is betrayal, romance, and political intrigue. There is danger.
The story includes plenty of action, but not too much—throughout the story Elisa becomes more grounded in her identity, and as a realistic character, she wrestles with insecurities. The book highlights this identity development in Elisa, providing a refreshing balance to an action-packed narrative.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns contains all the ingredients for an epic fantasy that left me wanting to read the second and third installments in the trilogy immediately. This is definitely a page-turner with many surprises along the way. I have to admit I am glad I didn’t discover the book until all three installments had been published!
Spirituality in The Girl of Fire and Thorns:
The religious culture of the narrative is fascinating and this book definitely reflects multiple spiritual aspects. Elisa’s struggle with the fact that she is the bearer of the godstone is apparent throughout the story. The way she comes to term with this part of her identity invites discussion about how sometimes we feel a desire to do something significant, but actually doing it feels impossible. Other times, we can sense a “calling” to do something, but we do not feel adequate.
The relationships portrayed in the story communicate ideas that appearances can be deceiving and sometimes compassion and kindness is what should be offered, even if undeserved. If someone betrays a person, can that relationships ever be redeemed? These are some of the issues and questions that this book brings up, reinforcing yet another spiritual dimension of the story. More discussion of spirituality in Carson’s trilogy will follow with my reviews of the second and third books.
Who Should Read This Book:
Young readers and old—if you like fantasy, particularly fantasy set in a world with ongoing political and religious tensions. If you like a strong heroine who is compassionate, brave, and growing into her identity as someone who is destined for greatness, read this book!
The Final Word:
I am already reading the second installment in the series, and am invested in the characters even more. Elisa’s character develops in interesting ways as the series progresses, and the adventure and mystery particularly keep me glued to the pages of these books.