Review: Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Where did you get the book: ARC provided by publisher
Release Date: 20th of September



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 needs 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

*Blurb taken from Goodreads*

I have been hearing lots of good things about The Girl of Fire and Thorns in the last few months, so I leapt at the chance to request this book, and I have to say I am so glad I did. Although I had high expectations because of the buzz surrounding the book, I was pleasantly surprised on how refreshing it was, especially on established tropes which Rae Carson twisted in unexpected ways.

When Princess Lucero-Elisa of Oravalle was born, she was blessed with a Godstone on her naval, which is a sign that she is a chosen one with a destined fate that could change her world. Each generation bears this stone and has a fate to fulfil destined by God. Yet this responsibility that is placed upon her is not something she wants or yearns for because she feels inadequate and feels uncomfortable in this role due to the weight of expectations pressed upon her. In contrast, her sister Juana-Alodia, is confident and capable in her royal duties whilst Elisa is studious, awkward and overweight. She feels like a sham with the responsibilities that she faces. But she is really apprehensive when she learns she is about to be married to the King of the neighbouring Kingdom which is much larger and powerful to her own. She marries King Alejandro as part of an agreement to ally their kingdoms to defend against their common enemy, the country of Invierne, who raid and yield magic that is destructive upon neighbouring kingdoms.  Yet despite her reticence, Elisa’s chosen destiny leads her to a journey that changes the people around her — as well as enduring adversity and heartache — she learns to reshape and discover that she can be more.

One of the best elements of this book was how Rae Carson shaped the world which felt like a Renaissance or post middle ages based Spanish world, with some Moorish nomad tribes settings. It definitely felt unique and refreshing compared to other fantasy based YA books I have read. It also felt epic in scope as I got to see different types of locations from a Mediterranean type region, to jungles and a vast desert. It really showed how much thought was spent on imagining this world which made it alive for me.

Whilst there is a strong theme of religion in the book, and the emphasis on God had a Christian feel, I have to say it didn’t feel like an inspirational fantasy and it felt fitting to the main plot and world-building. I also felt that this aspect really supplemented the setting and I think there was hints that this perspective will provide an interesting twist on how people view and use religion later in the series.

But for me the real gem of the book had to be Elisa the main protagonist. I LOVED the fact that she was so ordinary with real flaws and insecurities that was realistic and relatable. Despite her noble upbringing and the special fate that is placed upon her, her struggles and trials over the course of the book were real. From her marriage and the court intrigue that surrounds her in the beginning of the book, it was interesting on how she started to get out of her shell.

However, my favourite part of the book is when she was abducted later in the story where she really finds her sense of self and determination to defend against the encroaching Inviernes and their animagi (mages who use fire magic), as part of the resistance group she founded. I loved how she used her wits to out-think her way in the predicaments that she finds herself in and she was a character who used her intelligence as a foil.

The romantic aspect of the book also blew my expectations away. I don’t want to spoil it because it’s full of twists and turns, and there is a huge emotional aftermath towards the end of the book.  However, I do have to say that it was very fitting and real to the plot but it also really helped to flesh out Elisa’s ongoing development and characterisation.

Like most YA books, this is a book that is definitely about the rite of passage into adulthood, and Elisa starts off as being this insecure girl who is doubtful that she is able to fulfil her fate and the expectations. I also loved how established tropes such as the ‘chosen one’ were twisted around and made the book engrossing as well as breathing new life in an overused idea in fantasy.  But the growth and sense of self that Elisa develops at the end of the book, and how realistic she reaches that point, is fantastic. I really felt like I was swept away on her journey and I am yearning for the sequel to discover what happens next.  I love it when a book surprises me in so many ways and I suspect that Girl of Fire and Thorns will do the same for you.

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this book, but Girl of Fire and Thorns is an epic, sweeping story full of unexpected twists and turns. It has definitely gone on my top ten list of books this year!

I give Girl of Fire and Thorns an A


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