Today I am sharing a spoiler-free review of The Girl of Fire and Thornstrilogy by Rae Carson. I’ve read this trilogy three times. The first time was when I was in middle school, the second was when I was in high school, and the third was in February. I’m going to share my thoughts on this series, so you can decide whether or not you are interested in reading it.
The first thing I love is the worldbuilding, particularly the settings. The settings are incredibly unique compared to what we usually see in fantasy novels. There is no medieval Europe in this series. The first book has three main settings. The first reminds me of the Mediterranean, particularly Spain because a lot of the details seem to pull from Spanish culture. Then they travel through a rainforest, and they eventually end up in a desert region. The desert reminds me more of something like the Sahara than the Sonoran. Since I lived in a jungle for a month, I like rainforest settings. I also love desert settings. I’m living in a desert right now, and while it’s not the same kind of desert, I love it. In the second book, we get new settings that involve ocean travel and tropical islands. In the third book, we get snowy mountains thrown in the mix as well. We have this amazing variety of settings, and I love that about this trilogy.
I also love the magic system. The Godstone is a huge part of the storyline, and it is part of the characters’ religion. The religion seems to be based on Christianity. I’m not all that familiar with Christianity, so I don’t know that for sure, but that’s the impression I got. I like that the religion provides the lore behind the Godstone and also that it functions the way religions do. For some people, religion is a huge part of their lives, and I like seeing that influence accurately portrayed in some of the characters.
I also like the dichotomy between the desert-dwelling people and the Inviernos, and how that plays into the war between them. We don’t see a monoculture here because we have the two big cultures, and then within those, we see smaller subcultures as well. For example, the people of Oravalle are different from the ones in Joya D’Arena. They definitely have some similarities, but there are also distinct differences. They have different ways of living and they interpret religious texts differently. Overall, the worldbuilding feels unique to me, and that’s one of the things I love about this trilogy.
Another thing I like is the overall plot. Elisa is trying to end the war between the Inviernos and her people. I also like all the little subplots as well. I don’t really get bored in any of these books. There’s a little bit of travelogue in the third book, and that gets a little boring, but other than that, there’s plenty of conflict going on to keep me interested and engaged.
I also like the humor. I feel like the trilogy made me laugh quite a bit. The characters would often say things that are just really funny to me.
My favorite thing, though, is the characters. I think they’re all great. We have a lot of strong, capable female characters in this trilogy. That used to be pretty unusual for fantasy novels, and given this book was written about ten years ago, it was one of the early ones to start this trend toward strong female characters in fantasy. We don’t really see a lot of toxic characters. A lot of times in YA, we see these toxic relationships between people, and we don’t really get that in this trilogy. Most of the relationships are healthy. There’s one relationship that I’m not sure I would call healthy, but it’s not the most toxic thing I’ve read about either. The main relationship is healthy, and I love that. Another thing I noticed is that the characters tend to have quite a bit of agency. We don’t really see them getting bossed around by others. At first, Elisa doesn’t make a lot of decisions on her own, but over the course of the trilogy, she gains confidence and takes more control. I love that the characters are actively trying to solve their problems rather than waiting around for someone else to solve them for them.
The next thing is a little bit controversial because it isn’t portrayed all that well, but I personally like that it’s in the story. Elisa struggles with her body image, and she has a complicated relationship with food. She’s overweight and eats all the time. Over the course of the trilogy, we see her grappling with this internal conflict. I know many people who have personal experience with these issues don’t think it’s portrayed well, and that’s valid, and I respect that. I just like that there’s an attempt to deal with these issues that really aren’t common in books. Given that the story’s in a deep first-person point of view, I think it definitely could have been discussed more and overall handled better, but I like that it’s there.
Those are all my thoughts on the trilogy. I don’t really have any big negative points to make. That makes me wonder how much of that is bias from how much I love this trilogy and how nostalgic it is for me. During my most recent reread, I had forgotten many of the details of the story, so I read through the whole thing very quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed things as a result of that. I’m debating about rereading the trilogy again soon, and if I do, I might redo these reviews to include those things I probably skipped over this time.
That’s all I have for you. Let me know in the comments down below if you’ve read this trilogy. If so, let me know what you think of it. If you haven’t, let me know whether or not you’d be interested in reading it. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.