The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Rae CarsonLucero-Elisa de Riqueza, the younger princess of the kingdom of Orovalle, is wed in an arranged marriage to King Alejandro de Vega, of the neighbouring country of Joya d’Arena.  Joya d’Arena is embroiled in a war with another country, Invierene, and their situation is precarious.  Elisa has been marked by God with a blue gemstone embedded in her navel since birth to do something special, although no one knows what.  Yet.  All this and Elisa is only sixteen years old.After Elisa arrives at the palace in Joya d’Arena, she’s kidnapped by a group of rebels, and dragged across the desert. Once they arrive at the rebel village, Elisa embraces their cause, and uncovers a treacherous plot against King Alejandro.  Can she save Joya d’Arena in time? One of the things I enjoyed the most about The Girl of Fire and Thorns was that Elisa wasn’t a typical YA heroine.  She’s not considered particularly beautiful, and she’s also quite overweight.  Fat, in Elisa’s words.  She uses food as a coping mechanism until she no longer has that option and has to figure out how to deal with any problems that arise using her own wits and intelligence.  Another thing that sets this medieval-themed fantasy novel apart is that the marriage is not something Elisa looks forward to.  She’s terrified, the people in Joya d’Arena look at her as an outsider, her husband is not the least bit interested in her, and most people treat her like the child she still is.  Carson presents a rather realistic view of what it must have felt like to end up in a dynastic marriage.There are lots of Spanish-language influences in the book and the religion of Elisa doesn’t feel as if it only resides in an alien planet.  The familiar feel of the language and religion reader help ease you into the novel and quickly establishes the setting.  It think it’s important to say here that you shouldn’t let the heavy presence of the world’s religion drive you away from the book.  It’s absolutely  integral to the plot and Elisa as a character.The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a great action-packed read with a relateable heroine, who repeatedly falls down, makes mistakes, and picks herself back up, because it’s the only thing she can do. There are two more books in the series: The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom.