The Girl of Fire and Thorns

by Rae Carson
ages: 13+
First sentence: “Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom.”
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Elisa is the younger sister in the royal family of a smallish country. The only thing that marks her as different is that she’s the bearer (the first in a century) of the Godstone, a jewel in her navel. She has no idea what her “service” is supposed to be, but she does know that it will require something of her.

So, when she’s married off to a king of an adjoining country on her sixteenth birthday, she figures it’s the first step in her destiny.

Little did she know what that would mean.

There really is so much to like about this book. It does start slowly; Elisa with her eating issues and insecurities are quite hard to like. But, as the book goes on, she warms on you: it’s truly a book about growth, about Elisa figuring out how to come into her own. And it’s a pretty amazing journey. I enjoyed that the book was religious in its own right. Elisa sees herself as a servant of God, and there’s some interesting implications and conflicts that arise from that belief. It’s a richly detailed world, Spanish-influenced, but one in which the world doesn’t overpower the characterization, a remarkable feat in itself.

I also have to admit (slight spoiler here) that I’m happy that while there is a bit of romance (she does get married in the opening chapter, after all), Elisa manages to find a way to be strong and self-assured without having to be on the arm (or in the arms) of some boy. Sure, she’d like to be desired, but in the end, a boy is not necessary. Good message, that.

All of which means I’m quite interested to see what Carson comes up with next.

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