I am super excited for today’s post! I’m finally reviewing my favorite book of all time, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. This review will contain spoilers for this book, and there is one spoiler for the entire series. I will put a warning before the series spoiler, so you can still read this even if you haven’t finished the series.
I’ve read this book four times now. The first time was when I was in middle school, and the third time was when I was a senior in high school. I can’t remember when the second time was. I most recently read it in February of this year. If you’ve seen some of my earlier posts, I originally had this book listed as my third favorite, but after rereading my top three favorites this winter, I decided to promote The Girl of Fire and Thorns to the Number One spot.
I’m going to talk about what I like about this book, what I don’t like, and my overall thoughts.
I think one of the main reasons I love this book so much is because it reminds me of summers as a teenager, and so it’s very nostalgic for me. It’s also just a really great story that I love.
I love the deep, first person point of view. A lot of the books I read are in third person, and I personally prefer first, especially deep first. It’s also in present tense, which I prefer over past. I really like being in Elisa’s head and knowing all her thoughts and feelings. In particular, Rae Carson is really good at showing rather than telling Elisa’s emotions. We can tell based on Elisa’s thoughts if she’s happy or sad or scared, so I think the point of view is really well done.
I also love the details and descriptions, which tie heavily into the setting. I love that it takes place in a desert, and a small part of it takes place in a jungle. There are lots of details about the culture that make it feel like it belongs in the desert, and it also has these Spanish vibes to it. It makes me think of Spanish-style architecture from the Americas, and a lot of the made-up words feel like they could be Spanish. The details, descriptions, and settings bring the world to life; and I feel like they’re very well done.
I also love that there’s conflict on the first page. On the first page, we find out Elisa is a princess who is in an arranged marriage to a king, and she doesn’t want to marry this king. We immediately have this tension about the upcoming wedding, and that hooked me right away. I know arranged marriages are a common conflict for royalty, but it isn’t the main conflict. It’s just the hook. There are so many different levels of conflict throughout the book. Some are very public while others are deeply personal, and we get this nice range of different kinds of conflict throughout. I really like the internal conflict we get with Elisa where she struggles with her body image and eating disorder. People who have experienced these issues in real life and have read this book voice concerns about how these struggles are portrayed. I would agree they could have been written better. I like that it’s there because it’s something readers don’t usually see in books, and I think it’s important for books to explore these kinds of things. I think we all just have to realize it wasn’t written in the best way. Another note about diversity is that Elisa and most of the other characters have dark skin and hair. Elisa really isn’t your typical protagonist in terms of appearance or behavior, and I really like that there’s this attempt to have something different, even if it isn’t portrayed as well as it could have been.
My favorite thing about this book is the characters. Some of my favorite characters ever come from this book. My three favorite characters are Alejandro, who is the king; Hector, who is one of the royal guards; and Humberto, who is one of the desert rebels. When I first read these books, Humberto was my favorite character, but as I’ve reread them, Hector has really grown on me. I’ve also noticed I like Alejandro less each time. If you’ve read the book, you know what happens to Humberto and Alejandro. I still cry every time I read this book. I’m sure this is why Hector’s grown on me so much. I need at least one character to love throughout the trilogy. I find it funny that when Elisa first meets Hector, she tells him to call her by royal titles like “Your Highness,” but then a couple days later, she makes him call her by her name instead.
Warning: Series Spoiler Ahead! Skip the following paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled.
I think this first book does a really good job of seeding Hector and Elisa’s relationship because they are endgame. I really love that it shows up in the first book because readers may ship Elisa with a different character, but there’s evidence really early on that Hector is supposed to be endgame.
The last positive thing I want to share is a couple of funny quotes. Father Alentín always says something really funny whenever he talks about the king. For example, he says, “His Majesty, may multitudinous sons spring from his loins.” I love Father Alentín’s little sayings like that. I also really like a part toward the end when Conde Trevino is holding Elisa and her friends captive, and Hector rescues them. He tells Conde Trevino, “In fact, I think His Majesty will be much dismayed to learn you have been keeping his wife captive.” I love that. No one really knew Elisa and the king were married, so Trevino had no idea how badly he messed up by holding Elisa captive.
Now for the couple things I don’t like about this book. The first is that Elisa doesn’t grieve her lady’s maid Aneaxi. Given the deep first person point of view, you would expect to see that grief, especially given how sheltered Elisa’s life has been. You would expect her to be pretty shocked by the sudden loss of her lady’s maid. Elisa also kills someone in the conflict that injured Aneaxi, and she doesn’t reflect on how that makes her feel. Killing someone is a big deal, and I would expect it to change her in some way and definitely have a presence in her thoughts.
The other thing I don’t like is that Elisa gets injured, and she both heals quickly and acts like she isn’t injured. Later in the series, we find out why she heals so quickly, but it’s hard to buy in this first book, especially because no one comments about how unusual it is for her to be healing at that rate. It makes it seem like the author just doesn’t know anything about medical things. Having some comments on the rate of her healing and also some reminders that she’s injured would easily fix this problem.
Those are the things I don’t like. I have one final comment before I get into my final thoughts. This book talks about God and religion a lot because it’s about Elisa, who is very religious and bears a Godstone. I typically don’t like reading about religious things, but I don’t mind it at all in this book. It’s such a huge part of the story that it has to be there, but I don’t feel like it’s overbearing or anything.
Those are my thoughts on The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Overall, I really love this book, and the few things I don’t like are very minor.
Let me know in the comments whether or not you’ve read this book. If you have, let me know what you think of it. If you haven’t, let me know if you think you would enjoy it. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.