This book, like Divergent, was one I was dying for. Simply dying. I was beginning to hate everyone that wasn’t me that had read it. And it was going to start getting ugly soon. End of the world ugly. But, HarperTeen must have heard that danger levels were increasing and put the title up on netgalley just for me. Or so it seemed. Also, I’m going to post the UK blurb for the book because I find that the American one on Goodreads is…misleading.
Princess Elisa is a disappointment to her people. Although she bears the Godstone in her navel, a sign that she has been chosen for an act of heroism, they see her as lazy and useless and fat.
On her sixteenth birthday, she is bartered off in royal marriage and shipped away to a kingdom in turmoil, where her much-older and extremely beautiful husband refuses to acknowledge her as his wife. Devastated, Elisa decides to take charge of her fate and learn what it means to bear the Godstone. As an invading army threatens to destroy her new home, and everyone at court maneuvers to take advantage of the young princess, Elisa becomes convinced that, not only is her own life in danger, the whole world needs saving. But how can a young girl who has never ridden horseback, never played the game of politics, and never attained the love of a man save the world? Elisa can’t be sure, but she must try to uncover the Godstone’s secret history before the enemy steals the destiny nestled in her core.
I loved this book. I should’ve said that sooner. The Girl of Fire and Thorns was fantastic and amazing and I really felt as if I had gone on a complete journey with Elisa by the end. I loved so much about this book, I don’t even know where to begin. My thoughts are tripping over themselves so that my fingers remain motionless on the keyboard. I’m going to split this review into three sections. The Plot, the Writing, and the Characters.
The Plot. Isn’t anything we haven’t seen before in fantasy. Though, is anything? A country on the brink of war with a chosen savior? It’s a classic. I like the twist though. That the chosen person wasn’t a warrior or beauty, or even a very motivated person. Elisa really is fat and lazy at the beginning. And she despises that part of herself and can think of nothing else. And one is left wondering how she will transform, how she will become what her country needs her to be. Which is, of course, the true plot of the book. The emergence of the chosen person and the sacrifices it takes to save a country on the brink of war. There’s a journey, sneakiness, poison, magic, battles, desperate escapes, and loss. It’s everything a book about war should be.
A Hunger Games for fantasy fans.
Let’s talk a little about what the plot isn’t. It isn’t a romance. Or a love triangle, though I can see where it might be marketed that way. There were two different men in Elisa’s life and they both had a profound impact upon her, in two different ways. Actually, I would argue that there are three men in her life but one isn’t put forth as any kind of love interest…yet. I’m kinda hoping that happens later. If there are going to be more books? I haven’t looked into it. Which is great as well! This could be a standalone but it could also be the first in a series. I love books like that. A book does not need an evil cliffhanger to leave me, and most readers, chomping at the bit for more.
I loved that The Girl of Fire and Thorns wasn’t about the guy and the girl but about the girl becoming powerful and confident.
The Writing. It will make you want pastries. Almond flavored, preferably. I want one now. I want one a lot.
I really just wanted to mention that I loved how the writing would speed up and then slow down. It’s a tricky thing to do. Or, a risky thing to do. You will always have readers who feel like what they want to see is glossed over while the bits they’re not too interested in have too much detail. But I thought the balance was done well in this one. Some of the war scenes are in detail and some are…summarized is the only word I can think of, though it doesn’t feel quite right. And, in the same manner, some of the character scenes/romantic scenes are in detail while some are told in a more reflective manner. The balance felt right.
I loved how everything was based (I assume) on Italian language/culture (or possibly Spanish. I am woefully ignorant about both). It gave the book a feel reality and history and age. The world felt real because I could relate it to something I already thought of as having a long history. Again, assuming it is based on Italian culture.
Also, I love the strong presence of religion in this book. It too gave the culture a real feel but didn’t ever feel like it was preaching anything, you know? There is a lot of religion in this book but never did I feel like I needed to go and find this religion.
The Characters. Were awesome. Mostly. There was one I didn’t like.
Elisa is just the right balance of self-deprecating and determined. And all of the changes she goes through feel natural and you can really see how the quiet, lost girl at the beginning of the book became…well…became what she becomes at the end. I hate this no-spoilers thing. I can’t even mention one of my favourite characters because I don’t want to spoil the neat twist there. Let’s just say that Elisa has a female character that is her perfect foil and it is there relationship, not any of the romantic ones, that really made this book for me. The way these two characters regard one another throughout the book goes through so many incarnations and tests, and is really the most interesting of the relationships in the book.
Alejandro, the king, was an intriguing character. I’m still not sure what I thought about him. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like. I did like the way the book ended with him. And there’s nothing else I can say and remain vague.
The one character I didn’t really like, or well, didn’t like the role he came to play, was Humberto. It might be awful of me to say but I really didn’t like his name and that just biased me against him. And I didn’t find that there was enough depth to him for me to believe that he became what he became to Elisa. Similarly to Alejandro, though, I did like how the book ended with him and I really enjoyed how his story affected the relationship between Elisa and her Foil character.
And as for the character that I’m hoping makes a bid for Elisa’s heart later…well…I don’t want to reveal his name. But let’s just say he reminds me of my favourite character from another political fantasy I read recently.
There’s so much more to this book, but I feel like I can’t say more without revealing more and what I loved the most about this book while reading it was that I honestly didn’t know where the author was taking it. And I don’t want to spoil that experience for anyone else.
I’m off to find some almond pastries.
Read this book.
PS: I really don’t see what the title has to do with the book. Though I do like the title.