The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson is exactly what we need more of in YA literature – actual high fantasy. If you’re a fan of books by Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore, this is a book you’re going to enjoy! The world-building and characterization both work together to make this a story I was loath to finish.
Elisha is chosen. Chosen for what, she doesn’t know and can’t imagine. She watches her older sister who is much more poised and beautiful than she and wonders what she could possibly have to offer the world. She is overweight and awkward in all almost every possible way you can think of. She is married off to a king from another country and is then plunged into a confusing new world made of violence and intrigue. Then she is forcibly taken away and loses what little familiarity she’d gained in her new surroundings. She quickly learns that sometimes you have to go out and find your destiny instead of waiting for it to come to you.
So, Elisha is a pretty awesome heroine. When the book begins, basically all she has going for her is intelligence. She has no self-confidence, is extremely overweight and overwhelmingly awkward in social situations. As the book progresses, she undergoes a pretty extreme transformation both physically and mentally. I love that her imperfections are delved into instead of being brushed aside – Rae Carson knows the power of a human heroine. The changes she undergoes are totally legit by the way – she comes into herself little by little as circumstances force her to do so. There is a little romance, but not much. I’ve got a hunch about where that road will take us next though, so I think there might be quite a bit more of that in future books.
As far as the world-building goes, I was pretty impressed. The world is on the brink of war and the intricacies of which countries are on which side, who the power players are, etc. is all handled very well. No annoying information overload – just enough bits and pieces to easily pick things up. Elisha travels around quite a bit, so we’re introduced to different areas one at a time.
Another thing, which made me love the book even more, is the ending. There is one. No annoying massive cliffhanger or weird abrupt closing – events actually wrap up and I felt some closure. This is despite the fact that the book is the first of a trilogy! I mean, there was a lot going on in this book so of course there are plenty of things that can be picked up with the next book (and plenty of things I still want to know), but the main conflict of this book is handled. So awesome.
Anyway, I am a fantasy junkie and this book definitely stands out as a fantastic read. I highly recommend it! Also, don’t you guys love the new cover? The old one with the girl in the dress was very paranormal romancey – this one fits the book’s actual genre so much better. I really hope you’ll check it out when the book is released towards the end of September!