Release Date: September 1, 2011
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.
my spoiler-free thoughts
Oh hi, this review can’t possible express how much I love this series. It’s impossible, for my love for this series can’t be captured in words. If you are not into raving reviews, I suggest you move along. I have been caught in this world for the past two weeks, so there are a lot of Things I have to Say. Neither the cover nor the synopsis do this series justice. Even with all the raving reviews, The Girl of Fire and Thorns never really stood out to me, never really seemed to be something I would like to read. Do you see how important marketing is? Do you see how easily this could have gone wrong? Because I don’t know what I’d do without this series anymore. It is not often that I come across a series so meant for me. I’m actually writing this review with tears in my eyes because apparently, I’m an emotional wreck.
Granted, I have a weak spot for high fantasy, and I knew that I would at least enjoy this book. What I was not expecting was to fall in love like I did. And oh, I did. Like most high fantasy, it took a while to grow on me. Especially because the map, which I have come to expect from fantasy books, doesn’t show up until the third book, and I couldn’t really see the world like I usually can. Looking back, however, the slow build-up was what made the rest of the story so powerful. Rae Carson took her time with this series, took her time with the character development and the discovery of the world, and I can only admire her for this. And I needed the slow start, because I needed time to get used to the religion part of the story. Truth be told, this probably won’t work for everyone. Religion is always a tricky thing, because people are so passionate about it, but Carson’s version completely worked for me.
Elisa’s character arc is one of the best I’ve ever read. Starting off as a lonely princess, an ignorant girl kept weak all her life, and not a very likeable one at first, her growth is phenomenal. The entire first book is dedicated to her personal journey, and while I started off feeling just okay about her, I absolutely loved her by the time I finished. Even though the biggest part of her character development happens in the first book, Elisa continues to grow throughout the series and with that, my love for her grew. She is perfectly flawed. And while she is by far my favorite of all the characters, there are so many I loved and loathed and felt very passionate about. What I loved most about Carson’s characters is that none of them fell flat to me. There is something about her writing that made every one of the characters feel unique to me. As someone who is very big on characterization, this was very important to me.
More often than not, I prefer my books with a lesser focus on the romance, because especially in non-contemporary books, romance can distracting. There is nothing that annoys me more than a romance pretending to be a fantasy/dystopia/sci-fi, because if you are going to write a romance, you should just let marketing do its job and say it’s a romance. To me, a fantasy/dystopia/sci-fi needs to focus first and foremost on the world building and characters, because that is what these genres are known for. The romance in Fire and Thorns, however, is nothing less than flawless. The best thing is that this series would have been a solid, amazing series without, though it was the romance that truly broke my heart, and one of the most important things I will remember from it.
What I liked most about it was the build-up: Elisa and Hector aren’t around each other a lot in the first book, which focuses mostly on Elisa. I love that this makes her a solid character even without the romance, though the love story definitely adds to her character. I couldn’t see how they would end up together (also, Hector’s mustache was distracting me) but in The Crown of Embers, the slow development and subtle build-up of their love hurt and warmed my heart on several occasions, and I couldn’t control my squealing. The third book soldified my love for Hector and Elisa, and their love for each other. This is my kind of romance. Perfect build-up, subtle but powerful, tender but passionate, and most importantly: one that doesn’t take away from the plot.
And finally, I loved the focus on politics. Elisa starts off as a second princess, but grows into a queen (and more) as the story progresses. She is interested in politics and ruling, and she is great at it, but people don’t just listen to her. The political aspect of this story, while infuriating at times, was perfect for me. I think a book is a good book if you can’t get enough of the characters, and oh, I just want to keep reading about Elisa and Hector, even if it’s just about them walking around or having breakfast. I don’t want to leave them yet. With political intrigue, world building with an original religious aspect, impeccable character development, and everything I want in a romance, the Fire and Thorns series is a definite favorite. It might not work for everyone, but I thought it was absolutely phenomenal.
“Honor from death,” I snap, “is a myth. Invented by the war torn to make sense of the horrific. If we die, it will be so that others may live. Truly honorable death, the only honorable death, is one that enables life.”
“I hadn’t realized having one’s life saved could be so humiliating. I barely refrain from rolling my eyes at him. “I promise to spare you future embarrassment. Next time, I’ll let you die.””
“I am queen of Joya d’Arena and bearer of a living Godstone. I kneel to no one.”
She raises an eyebrow at me, and just like that, the old Cosmé is back. “We’ve been through worse, right?”
“Sure we have.”
“Liar.” She grabs my hands and squeezes. Then she looks me up and down, frowning. “You’re disgusting.”
“I dressed to commemorate the time you dragged me through the desert.”
“Promise me you’ll live,” he insists. “Because when all this is over, we must discuss how you sometimes kiss me to shut me up, and how I’ll no longer stand for it.”
I reach up to trace his jaw with my fingers. “I’ll promise to live if you will.”