Author: Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
Reading Level: Young Adult
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 423 (Hardcover)
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.
It's very hard to get my thoughts in check regarding this one. Because of this, I think I'm going to switch things up and give you a simple yay or nay list. I want to explain the aspects I did like and the aspects I didn't like in the novel so that you can better understand my thoughts. To put it all in the average organized review would be really messy because I loved this book, but despite it's amazingness it has a lot of flaws.
Things I Liked
1. Elisa's Flaws
Elisa was overweight. That's all there is to it. I don't think I've ever come across an overweight main character before, and oddly enough, I loved it. I love flawed characters because it gives them a hint of humanity in an otherwise perfect world. While Elisa's plights didn't gain much sympathy from me because she still had it all despite her obesity, her journey to inadvertently bettering her life and assuming her leadership position when she was previously meek and scared was great.
2. Carson's Brutality
It breaks my heart that Carson was brutal in this one, but she truly was. She killed off a lot of people--some of which we really didn't want killed off. I can't name names, but while I was excited to see some gone I was truly heartbroken to see others. With that being said, I think the mourning of some important characters lasted a single day and then they were nearly forgotten. I did not like that.
Once Elisa follows Alejandro to his country, Hector was the only welcoming one of her. I greatly enjoyed his characterization because he was just a nice guy. He was knowledgeable, he was kind, he was strong and I loved him as a secondary character. As a loyal friend to King Alejandro and Captain of His Guard, he knows a lot about everything. While he is not a love interest in this book, I'm greatly hoping he is in book two. He was such a great character and was very complex. I loved him as a person.
4. The World-Building and Political Intrigue
It's complex and unique, though typically what you would expect of a high fantasy. The world is on the brink of war, there are lots of hide-outs and complicated lands to traverse while others have fortified walls. There are political alliances that are made and then broken and countries doing their best to avoid all of the bloodshed. This led to some really interesting political intrigue that kept me somewhat on my toes, but became really predictable near the end as the battles began to climax.
5. The Hint of Sorcery
While Elisa has not explored it much and there wasn't much sorcery until the end of the novel, I love magic and I'm hoping this plot point is further explored in book two.
Things I Didn't Like
Alejandro is the King that is mentioned above in the synopsis--the handsome worldly king whose country is in turmoil. I did not like him and I viewed him not only as a weak ruler and a weak man, but a weak character because there was nothing to like about him. He was very fake. He had a mistress openly despite his marriage. He was almost ashamed of this marriage. He ignored his wonderful little son, Rosario, and didn't know how to properly lead the biggest country in this book into battle. He was shallow and only cared about how someone looked physically and couldn't even recognize his own wife after several months spent apart. Alejandro had no redeeming qualities and fell into the stereotypically handsome-guy-is-stupid role. He redeemed himself somewhat near the end, though.
2. The Basis of Religion In This Story
Religion is not truly a basis, but considering the fact that Elisa has some type of Godstone gifted to her by God, there's a lot of praying and mention of Him. And I mean a lot. While I adjusted to it, it annoyed me somewhat in the beginning. This isn't a book that is trying to force religion down your throat, but because of the mythology religion is incredibly important. So while I eventually found it fascinating, I can understand how many can find it frustrating just as I did in the very beginning. So, as fascinating as the concept of someone being chosen every 100 years by God and having a stone put into them through a beam of life to fulfill a service to Him was fascinating, I think I would enjoy it more if there was less of a need for religion.
3. Important Characters Being Forgotten
This goes hand in hand with number two on the "things that I liked" list. Some major characters who perished were forgotten after a single day of mourning, but what I found to be even more odd was the lack of importance placed upon Elisa's elder sister and Father. They were a big deal in the beginning and they had all of two letter correspondences for about 95% of the novel. They were mentioned in passing! I don't understand it all. Characters were put on the back-burner and left there often.
4. Carson's Obsessed with Teeth
I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but almost every time we met a new character Carson went out of her way to mention their teeth somehow. Surprise surprise, most people had white teeth. Who would have known?! This is something that grated on my nerves. This world was on the brink of a war and there was a lot of death and all Elisa noticed at times were people's teeth.
All in all, I recommend this book to people who enjoy high fantasy novels with truly unique mythology and a strong main character that undergoes great growth. However, if religion is bothersome to you, this may not be the book for you.