Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson

How did I get it: The library.

Why did I read it: I’ve been excited about this book for awhile now thanks to extremely positive reviews and, of course, the blurb from Tamora Pierce.

How I would rate it: 4 out of 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 needs 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.

Review: I was totally unprepared for this book to be the love child of Philippa Gregory and George R. R. Martin. But I am beyond delighted that it was. The richness of detail, ritual, and tradition had me hooked from the very opening page. The brutal fantasy aspects, while less frequent than in other books, were similarly unexpected but just as pleasing. There was a lot of intrigue, betrayal, romance, danger, and action too.

At the heart of any great book is its main character, and Elisa is the sort of female protagonist that I would have longed to read about as a teen. In most respects, I was more than happy to read about her now that I am older. She was equal parts believable and endearing while coming to terms with the fact that she has lived a very sheltered life and has quite a large destiny to pursue. Fans of Daenerys Targaryen who were not fans of the less consensual and decidedly more unpleasant aspects of The Game of Thrones will definitely fall in love with Elisa. I know I did.

I also really appreciated that Carson had her be overweight and struggling with accepting herself and being accepted by others. Although Elisa does lose some weight as a result of certain plot points, I think Carson did a great job keeping the focus on how Elisa is transformed by her experiences from only soft, insecure, and scholarly to proud, fierce, and determined as well. She never forgot who she was, never changed completely, and continually played to her strengths as she grew in a beautiful, organic way. The minor characters were great too and sort of all over the place in terms of the roles they played which was excellent. I especially loved Rosario, Humberto, and Ximenia, but Cosme and Alejandro had important roles to play and I came to care for them too.

I did, however, have an issue with The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I wish I could articulate my feelings as eloquently or clearly as Thea does in her review on The Book Smugglers, but I wasn’t really happy to discover that the religion in the book was virtually identical to Judeo-Christianity. Yes, I liked how real this world felt as well as the borrowing from Spanish culture and medieval history. Yes, this book has sorcery, evil animagi, magical blue stones, and other differences, but honestly I have no interest in reading any Inspirational Fiction titles and I hated having the uncomfortable suspicion that I was reading one. I also found myself wondering what this connection did to the overall message of the book or what it meant for how much Elisa was in control of her own destiny, will, and/or abilities. This aspect of the book won’t bother all readers, but it definitely bothered me. Happily, it never bothered me enough to stop reading altogether.

In conclusion, a mostly excellent and very engaging book. Fans of George R. R. Martin, Philippa Gregory, Tamora Pierce, and Jacqueline Carey will enjoy this immensely. Those who dread the idea of investing in yet another series with cliffhangers and years between releases will also be happy to learn that The Girl of Fire and Thorns tells a very complete story all on its own.

Other Reviews:


About April

I'm a librarian, reader, and writer whose main goal in life is to be able to swim in books the way Scrooge McDuck swims in money. Although my reading choices will always be wildly eclectic and I never plan on leaving any genre unexplored, my favorite reads tend to be Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Gay Romance, or Historical Fiction. You can e-mail me at inspector[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com.
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4 Responses to Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

  1. I thought this one sounded great from the synopsis. But the more I’m learning about the book, I don’t think it’s one for me. But There are many people out there who will love this one. 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful review.

  2. Pingback: Reader’s Progress #39 | CSI: Librarian

  3. Pingback: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson « The Reading Date

  4. Pingback: Best Reads of 2011 – Teen Books | CSI: Librarian

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