Redonk Nutshell: Young woman struggles to find her purpose amid a political marriage and a predestined expectation of greatness

I had heard some interesting buzz about this YA fantasy novel by newcomer Rae Carson, so I was excited to pick it up.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the story of Princess Elisa, the chosen carrier of The Godstone: a literal magic stone embedded into her abdomen, and her path to maturity.  I liked Elisa because she is a flawed heroine – she has some serious self image and confidence issues.  She’s a big girl, a result of finding comfort in binge eating.  She is described as dark skinned and having beautiful eyes, but Elise doesn’t see much when she views herself.  Which is why, when she weds the King of her neighboring homeland, she has doubts.  Her husband, Alejandro,ends up being a very nice gentleman, though as Elisa matures she comes to see how his character flaws have hindered his rule.  Elise wades through the murky waters of learning about her Godstone and ultimately is forced to figure out what her true purpose is.  Her faith is put to the test.

What I really liked about this book is it isn’t comfortable.  Elise is forced to confront her own insecurities as well as a slew of events that will forever shape the woman she is turning out to be.  There are several moments where I mentally cringed – like how Elise thinks of herself, and how Elise loses close friends to her – but I enjoyed the raw and edgy feel of the story.  In fact, I was engrossed.  I really wanted to know how Elise’s first installment of her story was going to resolve itself.  More importantly, I look forward to seeing how she continues to grow as a character.

I thought Fire & Thorns was a great first book in what I think will be a fun yet gritty YA fantasy series.  It’s obvious Carson has no qualms about tackling touchy issues – faith, self image, murder, loss, etc. – and I genuinely look forward to reading the next book, if only to know how Elise will shape the fate of her people.  I’m glad I picked this up.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, 432 pgs, 9/20/11

Rating: B

Romance: 2/5          Raunch: 0/5

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