Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

This ARC comes out in two days. And I was super excited for it because of the one blurb on the front (that hopefully will be on the final version) that reads: “Engrossing.” –Tamora Pierce.
The back of the book says it will appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. And I am a big fan of those ladies, and as it turns out, I’m a fan of this too.
Something I have been noticing a lot though lately with YA book covers is a general misrepresentation of the characters. For example I know of certain books that are about girls of Latina or African American descent that then display a gorgeous, white girl on the cover. And one of the appeals to this story for me was that the main character was fat. And by the end of all her adventures, she does lose a lot of weight, but still…The girl on the cover of this book doesn’t really look she has ever really enjoyed eating that much, and I really think that gives teen girls a bad message.  (Yes, there can be books about girls who are fat or who are from Mexico, but no, they aren’t good enough to be on covers…?) YA books are inspiring, and in my opinion, the covers really need to reflect that.
Any way, I did find he story to be very interesting. It’s about Elisa, a princess born with a a stone from God that only one bearer gets per century. Elisa is brought up in ignorance of what her stone means because her people believe she can’t know what is in store for her to be able to do all she can do. The book starts on her wedding day to a handsome King, who doesn’t really seem to love her. No one tells her why she has to get married so quickly or why she has to flee the only home she’s ever known. Soon, though it becomes clear that all is not well in the kingdoms because the royal carriages are attacked on their way to the King’s palace. Elisa, who loves reading about war tactics, manages to save her carriage of ladies in waiting, and then also even manages to save the life of her husband.
When they get to his kingdom, Elisa is forced to hide her new marriage to the King from his kingdom, and is not given adequate explanation for why. Elisa likes to eat. And be warned that you will become hungry while reading certain passages! She knows that she has a big figure and, the king wanting to hide their marriage does not do wonders for her self-esteem. Soon, Elisa is kidnapped because her stone is recognized. And she’s taken to the desert where she sees the effects of a war she believed over. With her captors/new friends she learns a lot about herself and who she is meant to be.
She falls in love with one of her new friends, helps her friends defeat waring armies, spies with them on evil animagi, leads enormous groups of people, prays a lot, and discovers the great power she has at her fingertips. This book has a lot of war themes and spying, and death in it. If the war-side of epic fantasy books is not appealing to you, you probably won’t like this. There’s a lot strategizing and tough decision making.
And it actually took me a little while to enjoy the book. It took me a while to like Elisa because I tend to like intelligent characters a lot more than ignorant ones, and all of the praying she does sometimes made her stand out in a bad way to me. But, eventually I got to know her and watch her as she grew in intelligence and power, and she still has a ways to go, but I liked her a lot more when she learned more about herself, and trusted herself more. There is a lot self conscious, almost whininess about how she’s fatter than everyone else, and how she doesn’t believe herself worthy of a Godstone. But, half way through, she really finds her place in the world, enjoys her adventures, and learns to be proud of who she is.
And again, I’m going got stress the war stuff. I was hoping the book would be more supernatural than it was. Really, it’s a war/fantasy adventure, and does not have much in the way of magic. And everything that I would define as magical is defined by the characters as godly. There’s a lot of religion, a lot of prayer, a lot of rituals, and a lot of faith in this one. And it was fascinating to learn about this religion, and interesting to see how all sides deemed themselves on the side of God. But sometimes, the religion aspect was too much for me. It was hard for me to see Elisa reading her equivalent of the bible every night, with everything that was going on.
Yet despite the pretty, yet not so cool cover and the heaviness on war and religion, I did still find myself loving this story. I couldn’t put it down, and read it in less than a day. I loved reading about all the food. I loved all the scenes where Elisa had to first rough it in the desert. I loved the man she fell in love with. And I loved all the minor characters who each had some political/interesting side storyline. And I loved how much Elisa grew since the night of her marriage. I want more magic, but I can’t win everything. I give it a 9/10. And more than Cashore or Pierce, I think it would more appeal to Sherwood Smith or Anne Osterlund fans.

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