I have most YA books figured out by the second chapter. I can tell you who the heroine is going to end up with and how. There is a pattern to most of these books and it isn’t too hard to figure out. Two chapters into A Girl With Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, I told my husband exactly how it was going to end. I have never been more wrong about a book ending. It took twists and turns that I had never thought of, relying less on a romantic element and more on the strength of the heroine.
Elisa is a 16-year-old princess and the story opens on her wedding day. The first time she sees her husband is when they meet at the altar. Elisa is different from most heroines. She is over-weight, lacks confidence and has sat in the background all her life while her older sister takes charge. The one thing that sets her apart is the she bears the Godstone in her navel, which signifies that God has selected her to complete an extraordinary task. Elisa prays often but has no idea what task God wants her to complete, since she is the sheltered, insignificant queen of a foreign land. That is until she is kidnapped and now she must lead a desperate people at war into a losing battle.
I feel torn on this book. On the one hand, I really liked the story. I loved watching the transformation of Elisa when she goes from sheltered princess to a leader that everyone can get behind. I loved how this book, even though it is fantasy, portrayed the causalities of war. In a lot of books, death is glossed over, only minor characters are killed and the major characters are saved at the last moment. Carson didn’t do that with this book, practically no character is safe from death and as sad as it was at times, it felt more real. I also felt like Elisa’s pain gave her strength. I loved how strong Elisa ends up being. I loved how hard see has to work and how much she is willing to sacrifice to help others.
As much as I really liked this book, there were parts that drove me crazy. A lot of the book seems to focus on food. It is almost like we know what Elisa eats for every meal. In the beginning it makes sense, but later on as she becomes stronger and relies less on food for comfort, it kind of lost me. I also felt like the book was super religious. It is of course a fictional religion and the entire premise of the story involves God choosing Elisa for some sort of task, so religion of course played a large role to the plot line. Most of the time it didn’t bother me at all, but there were moments I felt that were drawn out longer than they needed to be.
I did like this book. I have added the sequel to my holds lists at the library, I am waiting to see if the series is buy worthy until I have read more.