With fire in her heart,
This review is from: Fire and Thorns (Fire & Thorns Trilogy 1) (Paperback)
Imagine if you were the Chosen One... but had no idea what you were destined to do, and had no discernible skills.
Such a girl is at the heart of "Fire and Thorns," a richly textured fantasy about a seemingly ordinary princess who is destined to be involved in much, much more. Rae Carson obviously put a lot of love into her fantasy world, as well as a heroine who defies most of the "princess" tropes.
Once every century, a child is marked with the divine Godstone, showing that they are destined to serve God somehow. Princess Elisa is its newest bearer.
And because of a treaty, she is reluctantly married to beautiful, kind King Alejandro of Joya d'Arena. But her new homeland is a strange, not-very-welcoming place, especially since the marriage is being kept secret for mysterious reasons. There are plenty of backstabbers, rivals and even a brewing war with Invierne.
And in Joya d'Arena, Elisa soon discovers religious truths about the Godstone that nobody in her country would tell her. But when a band of revolutionaries kidnaps her, she finds herself fighting Invierne's animagi -- and a terrible magic that uses Godstones and blood. Now Elisa must not only save herself, but her new country as well.
Sorcery, religion, politics, ancient texts and a legendary jewel that channels God's will -- nobody can accuse Rae Carson of writing a book without plot. In fact, "Fire and Thorns" is dense with brewing events that eventually explode into battle, with colorful, richly descriptive prose ("robes as white as quartz").
Carson also came up with a thoroughly likeable, unstereotypical princess. Elisa is a chubby, shy, studious girl at the story's beginning, self-conscious about her weight and intimidated by her sister and Alejandro. While she grows in confidence and strength, she never stops feeling like a real person who gets embarrassed and awkward.
And the world Carson comes up with is pretty fascinating as well. It seems to be based on Spanish and Middle-Eastern cultures, complete with a sort of pseudo-Catholicism that features heavily in the plot. It's not preachy, but Carson isn't afraid to tackle the tough questions of God's will, destiny and religious divisions.
"Fire and Thorns" is filled with rich fantasy cultures and sensual writing, but the real draw here is Elisa herself. And it leaves you wishing to know what happens to her next.