Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I work at an independent girls' school in the library that serves the 7-12 graders and some of the most popular books are exciting fantasy novels with interesting and strong heroines.  This specific sub-category of books encompasses several key authors, such as Tamora Pierce (the Tortall sequences and the Magic Circle series), Kristen Cashore (Graceling, Fire), Garth Nix (the Abhorsen trilogy), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games trilogy), and Robin McKinley (The Blue SwordThe Hero and the Crown).  Because I have a few very voracious readers who especially love these kinds of books and keep appearing at my desk requesting recommendations,  I am always looking for new fantasies with kick-butt heroines!  When I read the summary for Rae Carson's debut novel, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I was interested and hopeful that I had found another book to give to lovers of Tamora Pierce's and Kristen Cashore's adventures.  And once I started reading, I was delighted to see that my instincts were right!

Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza is the chosen one--the bearer of the Godstone and marked for special and sacred service.  But Elisa is also the younger, less attractive, and more ignored of two princesses.  She can't imagine ever doing anything remarkable.  Then, on her sixteenth birthday, Elisa becomes the secret wife of a handsome king who is desperate for the political aid and unknown power that Elisa can bring to his tumultuous nation.  Now Elisa, who is more comfortable reading religious texts in the library or snacking on pastries in the kitchen, must enter into a new court as her husband's secret ally.  The kingdom is on the verge of war and leaders on all sides are very interested in the mystical bearer of the sacred Godstone--including a daring young revolutionary convinced that Elisa can save his people.  Soon Elisa has left her sheltered life far behind as she enters into a dangerous adventure full of political intrigue and magical battles.   But in order to save a nation and its people, Elisa must learn to understand and use the power deep within herself, risking her life and her heart in process.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns brings us into a rich, new magical world with fully developed cultures and religion.  Unlike many other fantasy adventures, this world appears to be physically and culturally inspired by Spanish and Mediterraean societies.  Elisa is a wonderful protagonist, whose unique strengths grow and develop visibly as the story enfolds.  She is highly intelligent and is a both a skilled military stratagist and a perceptive religious scholar.  When the novel begins, she lacks a great deal of self-confidence and has spent much of her life doing very little physical activity and eating when upset or nervous.  However, when forced into strenuous physical activity by necessity, Elisa grits her teeth and refuses to give up;  as a result, she gains better health, new survival skills, and a more positive attitude towards her body and her abilities. 

In The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Carson creates an action-packed story filled with three-dimensional characters and uniquely interesting settings.  This novel is definite must-read for fans of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, and Robin McKinley!


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