I adore high fantasy. Throughout high school and most of college, my favorite author was Tamora Pierce. When I first discovered Kristin Cashore, I thought, “Hmm, she reminds me of Tamora Pierce.” I was thrilled to see on Cashore’s blog (or an interview or…something) that Pierce was a huge influence on Cashore growing up, too. Now, a lot of the teen high fantasy I read gets compared to these two authors, from Alexandra Bracken’s BRIGHTLY WOVEN to Leah Cypress’ MISTWOOD. If you like A, you’ll enjoy B, too! And C, and D, and E… THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson is another book to add to this list of “Authors for Fans of…” while still remaining completely a book of its own. In the future, we’ll surely be saying, “If you’re a fan of Rae Carson, you’ll enjoy A and B and C…” The day I picked this up to read, I was deciding between it and two other titles. Ultimately, I went with this one because Tamora Pierce recommended it. Have I mentioned yet that I’m a sucker for her? Because I totally am. Once again, I’ve been introduced to another fantastic author. (I’m absolutely one of those people who picks up a book based on the fact that a beloved author has either blurbed it or been compared to the book being being blurbed.)
One of the things I like best about high fantasy is the world building. I have yet to encounter a land that isn’t beautifully developed and rich with imagery. Carson’s world is one where men have all the control and women are merely pawns for future moves. THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS refers to Princess Elisa, a girl born with a Godstone in her belly. This is a blessing bestowed only once a century, and people have killed to possess the expensive gemstone that is a part of her, that grows warm with comfort or icy with fear. People have attempted to assassinate Elisa for her stone, though she’s mostly oblivious to the attempts, shielded by those around her. Her kingdom is on the brink of war, and Elisa is shipped off to marry King Alejandro in the hope that her Godstone will help maintain peace and prosperity. Alas, it’s not to be. Her secret is discovered and she is kidnapped and carried off into the desert, where she realizes many truths that have been kept from her—and fellow family members—over the year concerning the horrors of the ongoing war. Not only that, the enemy is also in possession of Godstones, and their dark magic is at a point where the kingdom can easily be ripped to shreds. They will stop at nothing to rip Elisa’s Godstone from her and use it for their own purposes, yet Elisa might just be her kingdom’s final hope.
THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS is the first in a trilogy, and while the first book has a firm resolution, it’s obvious that a lot of heartache is still to come. Carson is a gifted writer, one who can pull a reader in, capture the heart, and then tear it in two again through unexpected plot development. It’s also interesting to see that the main character is an overweight princess. A lot of her life revolves around food. It’s best to read this book on a full stomach. The rich food descriptions remind me a lot of the way Cindy Pon described such things in SILVER PHOENIX. There were times where you could taste, say, dates on the tongue or feel parched from traveling through a desert without water. Carson breathed so much life into her world that it was easy to visualize and fall into it. It’s also interesting to see the infusion of Spanish throughout the novel. It aided to the culture and brought it to life in a way that might not have otherwise been possible. This book is a wonderful addition to the high fantasy genre, and I can’t wait to see continue Elisa’s journey and see where Carson takes us next!
This book originally had a different cover. The first cover intrigued me enough to make me interested in the book, but this new cover…oh! It SPARKLES. The prominent gemstone mimics Elisa’s Godstone and it’s so big and shiny. I love the way Elisa’s image is inside the stone (and the image is the same girl from the initial shoot, so they didn’t completely scrap it!). I think this is a very well-envisioned series design and will make it easy to distinguish the books as a whole when looking on a shelf. I also love the coloring and the foliage that take up the rest of the cover. There’s something interesting to see wherever your eye falls. This cover will never get boring!
[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]