Series Review: Fire and Thorns

Series Review: Fire and ThornsTitle: Fire and Thorns series
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: September 1, 2011
Genre/Age Group: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 4.5 Stars

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.

memorable quotes

“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.”

Judith is a 21 year old book blogger and reviewer, English student, part time magazine editor, compulsive book buyer, aspiring writer, proud book pusher, founder of Paper Riot and co-founder of the Recaptains. She is kind of addicted to Twitter. More?

13 Responses to “Series Review: Fire and Thorns”

  1. “I am queen of Joya d’Arena and bearer of a living Godstone. I kneel to no one.”

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  2. Kaylie says:

    I just finished this series a couple of days ago and it was absolutely phenomenal!


    I’m so going to re-read this series. It has been a while since I’ve read the first two books and I want to dive back into the awesomeness. I loved Elisa and Hector <3 I definitely need to get to the last book asap. But first I need to wait for enough money, haha.

    And my mind is pretty much Amber's reaction at the moment.

  4. Alice says:

    Ahhhh I have been anticipating your review for this series ever since I saw your raving thoughts on Twitter and OH MY GOSH I CAN’T EVEN explain how badly I need these books in my hands right now. I feel the shame and the burn and urgh why haven’t I touched these books yet. I’ll just sit here. In my little corner. Sigh.

    I am so unbelievably pumped to read this now. It just all sounds so perfect and all the elements seem to have aligned brilliantly and ahhh all the feels. All the feels just coming from your review.

    brb sorry buying these books now.


    I see what you’re saying about marketing and the like…this series has been on my radar but I hadn’t really considered reading it till recently, so it hadn’t jumped out at me. And it took me a little while to warm to the first book BUT I DID WARM TO IT.I DID.

    Our thoughts on high fantasy and romance are pretty much the same.

    And you say that Hector’s moustache WAS distracting? DOES THIS MEAN HE LOSES THE MOUSTACHE? (Why is that the line in your review that most stood out to me? What am I?)

    Cannot wait to read more. *grumbles*

  6. Gahhh!!!! I love this series so much and Elisa and Hector are so perfect and I just can’t even. a;dlgkja;glha;erfhrhg

    But seriously Elisa is one of my favorite characters in YA fantasy. She grows so much throughout this series and I loved everything about her. I’m so glad that you gave this series a chance and enjoyed it so much!

  7. Christina says:

    I’m enjoying these books so much! I’m about to start The Bitter Kingdom, and I don’t know if my heart can handle it.

    I love that you mentioned Hector’s mustache because I remember thinking “Hmm, I really like him and he would be good for Elisa…but he has a mustache so no.” Don’t know why the mustache weirded me out but I adore Hector now. With or without the mustache.

  8. ALL OF THIS. x 1,000.

    Do you SEE why I had to create a new feature basically talking about series as a whole after reading this one? It’s just too good not too push and I couldn’t even write individual reviews for each book. I just needed everyone to know that they NEEDED to read these. So glad you fell in love with them, too!

  9. Kelly says:

    “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.”

    I’ve only read the first one, but that would be something I would say about it as well. I absolutely loved the romance elements, but without them, I would have enjoyed it just as much!

    I need to finish this series. I hear it only gets better, after the first book!

  10. Oh hey thanks for the reminder!
    Just bought this entire series from Amazon with birthday money.

  11. Alexa S. says:


    I could seriously just leave my response at that. Because you articulated PERFECTLY how I, too, feel about this series! It’s excellent, it’s beautiful, it made me go through a ton of emotions, and it’s just so PERFECT. I couldn’t have fallen harder for a series if I’d tried (and that’s no easy feat). So glad we decided to read this together, and that we binged it too! It’ll definitely go down in history as one of my most epic reading experiences.

    Also, HECTOR <3

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