Monday, August 22, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns review

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson
Greenwillow Books
September 2011

16 year-old Princess Elisa is a once-in-a-generation chosen one. She's been born with a gem in her navel, signifying that she is in God's favor. The godstone appears to be mildly magical, occasionally filling Elisa with a gentle warmth when she prays, or turning cold when she's in danger. Her father has arranged a beneficial political match for her to the king of a neighboring country.

I must admit, I was initially drawn to this book by the stunning cover with the girl in a purple dress. I was disappointed when I first saw that it had been changed, because it just doesn't seem to promise the same kind of glamor and excitement as the original cover design. I do like that the new cover emphasizes the importance of the stone, which is very true to the novel. Reading the book, it's quickly apparent that the original cover, while striking, has nothing to do with the story. It's a racefail, because Princess Elisa is described in the book as having dark skin. She is shocked the first time she sees someone with blue eyes, never having seen such a thing before. She's also quite overweight. This isn't some imagined problem on her part. From the way she's described in the book, I think it would be fair to say that Elisa is morbidly obese. It's obvious that her entire family and palace staff are disgusted by her size, and the constant teasing and scolding have made her super self-concious. Elisa thinks about food constantly, always planning her next meal or snack. She can't see her toes. She gets worn out walking up the stairs. She sweats constantly. Worst of all, and this made it really hard for me to like her at first, she's an emotional eater. When someone makes a fat joke at her expense, she grabs an entire serving platter of canapes and eats the whole thing. On one or two occasions, she eats until she can't cram another bite and finally vomits. The emphasis in a medieval-type setting on the slim yet busty Western ideal of feminine beauty surprised me.



When Elisa returns with her husband King Alejandro she is mortified to discover that he plans to keep their marriage secret. Caught up in court intrigue, Elisa is soon kidnapped by a faction of rebels. They take her on a forced march across the desert that effectively acts as a fat camp. She loses the weight and seems to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, joining, and then leading the group of rebels. Her time in the desert molds her into a stronger, harder, more dangerous person - in short, someone much more fit to rule. Readers will enjoy the multiple twists and turns that the story takes, and the fast pacing of this high fantasy. This is the first in a planned trilogy.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

4 comments:

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  2. Great review! I admit that I am drawn to the purple cover but it sounds like the other cover suits it better :)

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  3. I know... the purple cover is so pretty! I think it influenced me - I was certainly surprised and disappointed that the main character was such an ugly duckling in the story.

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  4. I'm reading this right now and loving it! I agree, the first cover was so pretty, but it doesn't fit the book at all.

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