In week three of my month of book reviews focusing on women writers I’ve never read before, I look at a fantasy novel.
Book Review: Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Series: Book One of the Fire and Thorns Trilogy
Note: Cover and Title differ in the US. I’ve read the British version published by Orion.
It was difficult for me to put this book down. It’s hard to single out just one element that makes this such a great read so I’m not even going to try. This book reminded me, at times, of Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, with it’s desert scenes, tense politics, and the great bravery and growth of the heroine in a short space of time. Rae Carson held my attention all the way with a comfortably familiar world and well-drawn main characters.
The Whole story:
Princess Elisa has always felt herself wanting in the eyes of others, despite her being the Godstone Bearer. On her sixteenth birthday, she is wed in indecent haste to a King Alejandro. He’s handsome and kind; dazzling Elisa with hopes of love.
Elisa has to mature quickly and push all her self-doubts away when it becomes apparent that she is in grave danger, even in Alejandro’s court. It’s not just her heart that is in danger, but her new country’s future too, when the war that was threatening grows even closer.
Elisa soon realises that her life is just a pawn for politicians, magi, and possibly even the god who set the stone in her. Then too, she has to figure out her true feelings for two very special men in her life; all while puzzling out the secret of the Godstone.
How Elisa finds the strength to fulfill her destiny without betraying those few friends who place their trust and faith in her makes for a compelling story, filled with just the right ingredients in a satisfying recipe, much like the offerings from the palace’s kitchen where Elisa often finds her comfort.
What elevates this story:
Elisa’s character carries the whole story through. She is wholly human and I found her easy to identify with her. Her refusal to play the underdog, to rise up to the heavy burdens others expected her to bear, and still find a way to express herself, truly makes her remarkable.
The universal themes of self-esteem and deeming yourself unworthy are explored well, along with young love, and recognising love when it is offered to you.
What could have been better:
The climax arrives quite suddenly, I thought, which made it seem like something had been edited out–like someone said, ‘wind everything up quickly’. The rest of the plot moves along at a regular pace, then to have this sudden ending in just a few pages seemed jarring. I had no problems with the resolution, just that the timing of it all was not at regular as the rest of the story.
So what did I learn from this whole experience?
I learned of some strange and delicious sounding food combinations. I learned that I still enjoy a good fantasy set in an arid area. I learned that everyone claims to be doing the will of god, but even ‘his chosen’ have no real concept of what that might be. I’ll be looking out for more from Rae Carson and Princess Elisa.
Recommended to: Fans of Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword series, Prince of Persia lovers, and young women who often feel they are unworthy.
PS. My mum started reading Fire and Thorns immediately after me. She got really annoyed at having to put it down at times, and she read it through just as quickly 😀
Leenna is currently prepping her novel Settle Down Now (or release, which is her first chick-lit-like attempt at fiction. Read the first couple of Beta chapters on Smashwords here.