I think it is important you know that a) I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Greenwillow Books – HarperCollins) in two days because it was so fun and I didn’t want to put it down and b) some of it was unintentionally hysterical.
Our story opens with our fat heroine being stuffed like a sausage into her wedding dress. No, I am not being mean. That is how they put it. Elisa is fat and has a seriously unhealthy relationship with food. I was actually pretty psyched to have a heroine that wasn’t lithe and athletic off the bat, except that every other paragraph they talk about how fat she is and how she loves sneaking into the kitchen for food. It was kind of beating a dead horse after a while, but I really liked how they explored how different characters reacted to her while she was fat and later skinny. Elisa has gained so much weight in a short amount of time, that she is too big for and rips her wedding dress, for her rush wedding.
Elisa is to marry King Alejandro of Joya d’Arena. She doesn’t understand why he wants her and not her beautiful and cunning sister… despite the fact that Elisa herself is incredibly smart and educated in her own right (She is a wiz at battle tactics!) and happens to be God’s chosen one and bearer of the Godstone. What it the Godstone you ask? It is a diamond like stone that God put into her navel on her naming day and it means that she is destined for some kind of great service. A new bearer of the Godstone is chosen every 100 years, like the Avatar without the cool bending. So, Yes. Large person with a gem in her belly button = Treasure Troll Avatar. Just go with it. It works really well within the world Carson has created.
Despite her obsession with her weight and food (which, I love food, so I could relate to that. They even put a recipe in the back of the book for Elisa’s favorite food, Honey-Coconut Scones!), I really like Elisa. She is only 16, so she obviously has some growing up to do, but right of the bat, she starts asserting herself in little ways. Her new husband is beautiful beyond words, but she is afraid of her wedding night and asks to wait. He agrees and asks if she would like to talk and get to know each other, which I hadn’t really expected. Alejandro is not a bad guy, but I get the impression that he is weak. Elisa is clearly willing to overlook this because he is so pretty. Don’t judge. We’ve all been there…
The journey from her home to Joya d’Arena is long and arduous. Their caravan is attacked by Los Piedros, all of her things are burned, her nurse is killed, but she somehow finds the strength to save Alejandro by killing one of their attackers who has cornered him… by stabbing him over and over again. Despite being terrified, she is not just able to survive, but protect those around her. She definitely has a strong emotional reaction after this whole event, but she ends up better for it.
We soon set into her life at court where Alejandro has asked that their marriage be kept a secret for now, along with her Godstone. Lots of secrets, but what is a royal court without secrets? Elisa is at least given the old Queens quarters (the King is widowed with a son) and asked to sit on the council. Long story short, her maid Cosme, who hates her right off the bat, discovers her Godstone, then drugs and kidnaps her, taking her on a month long journey across the desert.
Through the desert and to a hidden city, Elisa gets stronger, loses weight, and begins to learn more about her kidnapper, her people, and the WAR that is happening without anyone in the city knowing about it. Cue Elisa becoming a leader of this tribe, and using her Godstone for guidance. (It gets warm when she prays or someone good is around and goes icy when bad things are approaching). I kept expecting characters to call Elisa, Muad’dib and for her to go into the Litany Against Fear every time she started to pray (which is a lot). At least no one needed Stillsuits.
Elisa really starts to come into her own after she is captured by the enemy army and outsmarts and kills their Animagus (crazy powerful magicians that the enemy has the shoot flames and get their power from blood! Only a few exist), escaping the camp. She becomes the leader of a revolution, but it is not enough to hold back the war that is quickly coming to Joya d’Arena. As a bearer, Elisa is too valuable to be on the front lines and goes back to the castle and king, WHO DOESN’T RECOGNIZE HER… and once he does, he is WAY nicer to her than he was when she was fat.
Throughout all of this, Elisa is trying to figure out her purpose and how to use the Godstone for magic like the Animagus do (withGodstones stolen from dead Bearers). The book culminates in four Animagi cornering Elisa, the King, his son, and Elisa’s protector in room. About to die, Elisa instead CARE BEAR STARES them with her Godstone. For serious. It was hysterical and awesome. Bad guys dead, army flees, king dies and Elisa is Queen Regent until the kings son comes of age.
Honestly, it is a difficult book to describe because there is way more detail and love triangles and world building that happen in this book. It was just so fun to read. Pick it up. Read it (and maybe send me a copy of the second one because I really want to read it).