Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on September 16, 2013 | 17 Comments

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Published by Greenwillow (9.20.2011)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, 423 pages
Source: From author signing, I own it
Buy on Amazon

2.5 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 thoughts

I’ve been meaning to read this one for quite some time now; I’d been really excited to dive into this story, as there was a lot of hype about it when it was a newer book. I met Rae at a signing not too long ago, and thought she was pretty awesome. So it makes me very sad to say that this one wasn’t really my cup of tea.

It was slow, painfully slow, in the first half. I was bored to tears, and I was seriously contemplating DNFing it. I struggled terribly so. Despite being high fantasy, it almost had a historical feel to me. History is one of those subjects; you know, the ones that make me go cross eyed when the conversation even comes close to the subject. Religion is another. I certainly did not expect this book to be so religious! Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in God. But that’s as far as it goes. I don’t care to read or hear about religion. Just the start of a religious conversation makes my eyes glaze over and my brain wander. There were a few times when I confess that I started skimming because it got too religious for me. It’s not that the subject bothers me. I simply don’t care.

Another major problem I had? The constant – and I do mean constant, it was practically every other page – fat shaming. Elisa was fat, and this book does not let you forget that. It got to the point that I wanted to throw the book. The amount of times that her weight was mentioned was excessive and offensive. It really pissed me off! There was constant mention of how she looked like a sausage or a stuffed pig, how she was large or fat, her ample rear and her girthBecause I am fat. I will never be dainty. Not an athletic person. The strongest man alive couldn’t carry me for any distance.She kept stuffing herself with food to the point of discomfort. There was continual talk of food – we don’t need to know every single meal she eats! Seriously, all you have to do is say she’s curvy or make some sort of reference to being heavy once or twice, and your readers will understand that she is not skinny. They don’t need to be reminded multiple times a chapter! We finally get a female lead that isn’t thin, and it’s portrayed negatively. There’s nothing wrong with being curvy.

Although it irritated me that Elisa doesn’t gain confidence until she starts losing weight, I do have to admit that there was clear development in her character. She grows stronger in body and mind as the story progresses, and learns to stand up for herself. I love that she finds faith in herself, but wish that she could have done so even with her weight.

I felt absolutely nothing while reading this book (well…besides anger at the fat prods, anyway). View Spoiler » and I felt nothingNot even a twinge. Logically, I should have been crying! View Spoiler » I felt very disconnected and indifferent to the story.

I couldn’t connect with the characters, either. I didn’t like or dislike any of them: Ariña (who I probably should have hated), Alejandro, Rosario, Humberto. Cosmé was alright. I like how she seemed cold at first and warmed to Elisa slowly as time passed. I am, however, very curious about Hector. *winks* I can’t say that he’s swoony, necessarily, but I did like him and I want to see more of him in book 2!

The only thing that kept me going was the fact that so many people have told me that book 2 is way better. I’ve heard several say they didn’t like book 1, but loved the next. Several times I very nearly said ‘to hell with it’ to go read the summary on Recaptains. But I hate to quit anything (stubborn, I am), and I do have to say that it did get better. But it took 75% for me to finally start enjoying it. In the end there was way more action, and I gotta admit that Elisa was a pretty kick-ass character once she realized her worth.

Overall Assessment

Plot: 3/5
Writing style: 3/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Characters: 2/5
World-building: 3/5
Pace: 2.5/5
Cover: 4/5
Overall rating: 2.5/5

Jessi (Geo)

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17 responses to “Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

    • Mel, I would definitely still give it a try…lots of people loved it! It just rubbed me the wrong way and I was bored. If anything, read it so you can get to book 2…I’ve heard it’s WAY better!

  1. Shannon

    I totally get where you are coming from. I liked this book, but I wasn’t overly attached to it. I wasn’t getting a lot of FEELS off of it, if you know what I mean. The Fat thing got really old for me too. But it DOES get better in the second and third book. A lot better. I think you should at least try the second book and see if you like it better. :)

  2. Yeah I recently did a reread of it this summer for a school assignment, but I totally agree with what you said about Elisa. She was super fat and she seriously didn’t get any confidence until she started losing weight, which I can find kind of relatable to an extent, but it definitely was taken to an extreme when she started stuffing herself, and then she would complain about how fat she was. I can also see what you mean by not connecting to any of the characters. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one, Jessi. :( A lot of people did like the second book a lot better, especially since Elisa had a backbone in that one.

    Fantastic review! <33

  3. I’m sad to see that you didn’t enjoy this book as much as I did. I’m not big on religious or historical novels either, but for some reason I didn’t mind those elements in this book (maybe because it felt somewhat sinister and mysterious, too?).

    The fat shaming? Wow, you and I had really different takes on that. Honestly, for me, this was a refreshing perspective. I was overweight for most of my 20s and I have a pretty dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship with my body. I could relate to Elisa VERY much. For some of us, the state (size/shape/flab/etc.) of our bodies IS always on our minds. Some people DO eat until the point of discomfort and then feel guilty about it.

    I really appreciated Rae Carson’s portrayal of Elisa being overweight, because it felt more realistic to me. What you call fat shaming — well, maybe it IS fat shaming — but a lot of women do it to themselves (the shaming, not the getting fat), just like Elisa did.

    If it had just been a couple of mentions that she’s curvy, sure, the readers would understand that she’s not skinny. But the impression I got was that Carson wanted to be BEYOND that. She didn’t just want to say, “this character is larger than most YA protagonists.” She wanted the reader to experience what it’s like to be fat and feel shameful and guilty and frustrated by it 24/7. She wanted the reader to experience what disordered eating can feel like, and to (hopefully) be able to empathize with not only Elisa, but with people like Elisa IRL. I guess that isn’t the message you got, though. =/

    (Gosh, sorry for writing a novel in your comments here. Maybe I should turn this into a blog post for further exploration.)

    • I can see your point, but I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I do understand being uncomfortable with yourself, but hers was more than discomfort, it was jeering and derisive and it just rubbed me the wrong way. I think in this case it’s all a matter of opinion and how people view things differently. My main problem was the fact that she didn’t find confidence in herself until after she lost weight and became ‘pretty,’ as based on society’s standards. I don’t like that it bought into said standards of society and how you are not pretty or desirable unless you’re thin. I wish the moral would have come while she was still fat, that she could have learned to love herself despite her weight because she was worth it. I suppose I was looking for an ‘it’s what’s inside that matters’ kind of moral there, and I was disappointed when there wasn’t one. I don’t like that the one ‘fat’ heroine in YA that I’ve ever read was portrayed so negatively. Again, all a difference of opinion! I would actually be interested to read the post if you decide to make one, I’d love to see where others stand on the matter. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!

      • I do agree that it was unfortunate how Elisa didn’t begin to gain much self confidence until she started losing weight. I did like that she started feeling more comfortable in her body once she started building muscle and becoming more physically capable in general, but it would have been nice if that hadn’t been as tied to being thin/pretty (but more of a general acceptance and comfort with one’s own body).

        In the later two books, there is a bit more exploration here. Elisa learns more about her body and becomes more comfortable with it — not only its “womanly” qualities (and desires), but also more of the feeling good about/with herself because she’s getting stronger (not necessarily thinner — she starts accepting that her body shape will never be like some other women’s, but she’s okay with that).

        Do you plan to continue reading the series, or are you stopping here? (I’ll be looking forward to your thoughts, if you read the next book.)

        I might just write that post, eventually. I would also like to see how other people feel about this issue. If I do, I’ll definitely let you know! :)

        • In reply to the second paragraph, that’s very good. I do plan to read the next book, I’ve heard from MANY people that the second is way better and have heard quite a few say that they loved it when they didn’t like this one at all. That’s the only thing that kept me from DNFing altogether! No guarantee how long it will take me to get to it, but I will definitely read the next. :)

          Yes please! Either tweet me the link or post it on here, I’d love to read it!

  4. So I know you didn’t like this one, but I’ve already read book two and Hector!!!! That was totally not a complete sentence but who cares. Hector was AMAZING in book two, and if you only read Book 2 for Hector, it will be worth it. Honestly, Elisa does not deserve him. Haha JUST HEEECTOR.

    As for this book, I hear you! I agree on most of your points, I was just able to breeze through it faster. Haha. Well written Jessi!
    <333 Inky

    PS. It was a fun buddy read! We should do another one.

  5. Noooooo *heart cries a little* I adore this book, but I think it’s because we look completely different to this story. I really liked to see Elisa’s development and I didn’t mind her losing weight and gaining confidence. I didn’t saw it was ‘it’s wrong to have curves’ but more as ‘she started to feel comfortable with her own body’ and that’s what it’s all about right. The last death you described shattered me, haha. Perhaps it’s also because I like to read historical fiction and this book did have some similar things. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like it :(

  6. Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads

    Even though I liked this book a lot more than you did, I have to agree with pretty much your entire review. Except I like history, so that aspect didn’t bother me. But I do have to say that book 2 is so so SO much better — like blew me away good. I’m hoping book 3 is just as great :)

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