Review: The Girl of Fire & Thorns

Title: The Girl of Fire & Thorns

Author: Rae Carson

Read via: Net Galley

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

This was one of those books that I read simply because of all the good buzz surrounding it. Every review I saw was completely positive. When I had the opportunity to read this via Net Galley, I was very excited. Personally I did not love it as much as most seemed to, but I still think it was a very good read and a very impressive debut.
I struggled with the first part of the book. The pacing in the beginning is somewhat slow and I had trouble liking Elisa as a narrator. Looking back I think that it was likely a deliberate choice to create her the way she was so the reader could really understand how much she changes over the course of the story. It is rather nice to see a main character beginning so ordinary and awkward. Either way after I read the first half or so of the book I had trouble going back and finishing it. I ended up making myself sit down and make an effort to finish it. It was definitely worth it. The second half of the book was just epic. As Elisa grew as a character I found it easier and easier to sympathize with her and her plight. I grew to admire her as she began to find her destiny. The introduction of the desert people also really helped to draw me into the story. I loved Cosme. I am pretty sure that she became my favorite character in the book. She is such a strong character with this very hard façade, but there is so much more hidden behind that. I would not mind reading more of her back story. Humberto was another wonderful character. He reminded me somewhat of Peeta from the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins in that he was this kind of sweet, strong, and gentle boy who has been forced to grow up and learn to fight for survival. So many secondary characters were also just brilliantly written. From Lord Hector and Alejandro to Mara and Ximena, I came to care about the people who populated the land.
The story itself is entrancing. The situation Elisa is in is very complex and learning so much history of the lands could have dragged the story down but it does not. Once Elisa began to understand the reality of her world, the pace of the story explodes and does not slow until the final pages. The way the author handled some things in the book may be an issue for some readers, but I think that it was done with an understated elegance that serves to highlight the realities of war. I was very content with the way the book ended.
This may be a hard book to begin, but once it gets going it is well worth the read. The fact that this is a debut is just extraordinary. A high fantasy that touches on so many other things, it is an awesome story that I would recommend to fans of the genre. I am very curious to read the next book in the series.

Cover: 2.5
Writing: 4
Plot 3.5
Personally: 3

Overall: 3.2 out of 5