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Girl of Fire and Thorns #1

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

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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.

423 pages, Hardcover

First published September 20, 2011

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About the author

Rae Carson

35 books5,866 followers
Rae Carson was born in 1973 in California and now lives in Arizona. She developed an enthusiasm for storytelling in her earliest childhood. She studied social sciences and worked in various industries after graduating from university before she realized her dream and became a writer. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is her debut novel.

In her own words, she "write[s] books about teens who must do brave things. [Her] books tend to contain lots of adventure, a little magic and romance, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices. [She] especially love[s] to write about questions [she doesn't] know the answers to."

Has also published as Rae Carson Finlay.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,585 reviews
Profile Image for Shannon.
3,097 reviews2,382 followers
September 3, 2016
If you caught even just a couple of my updates I think it would've been plainly obvious that I didn't enjoy this book. It's disappointing, really, because I think Carson was attempting to create a heroine that many girls could relate to. Elisa is overweight, unsure of herself, overshadowed by her prettier and skinnier sister, and chosen for something she's not sure she's worthy of. It sounds like the beginning of a compelling story, but ultimately Elisa only proves her worthiness by changing everything about herself. And walking. A lot.

Elisa is fat and likes to eat. You will hear about the food she eats and the sweets she craves so often that you'll start to wonder if you're reading a thinly veiled advertisement instead, or if this book was sponsored by the coconut or lamb industry. This girl eats so many scones. And when she's not eating, she's thinking about her next meal or about what she had the day before. Even after Elisa loses some weight and doesn't need to shove food down her gullet 24/7 to stave off headaches and fatigue, the story still revolves around her meals. I didn't need to know what she was eating every single day, or how it was prepared or who prepared it or how it tasted ... really. Cut out the food descriptions and this book would've been half as long. I get it, Elisa likes food and has a love/hate relationship with it. Am I reading a fantasy story or the food diary of a girl with an eating disorder?

After food, a large amount of the story is spent on Elisa walking from point A to point B. Sometimes with other people, sometimes against her will, sometimes alone. So then all of that walking means fat Elisa becomes skinny Elisa and all of her problems start melting away along with the pounds; people think she can win their war, boys fall in love with her, girls want to be her best friend. And the Godstone in her belly (that she can now see without parting her breasts and moving her stomach fat out of the way - wut) starts to react to danger, helping her elude her enemies. Because God rewards you when you're not fat!

There are also plot holes (and really, not a whole lot of plot to begin with) and at one point a character remarks that they have no idea why the enemy is attacking. The magic is incredibly underdeveloped and mostly relies on praying and hoping something will happen. Generals, guards, and the King all look to Elisa for war counsel when all she had ever done was read this world's version of The Art of War. The first person I'd look to for advice during war would definitely be a 16-year-old girl.

Elisa's hair-brained schemes work because the author wants them to. Everything is conveniently tied up with a neat little bow and there's not a single surprise. In the end, I was so unattached to any of the characters that I barely even blinked when someone died.

Elisa has a magic stone in her belly button, she's good at memorizing stuff, has blind faith in God, and knows the best pastry recipes. Those are her special powers. Elisa is a boring character surrounded by other boring characters living out a boring story with food being a much more developed entity than any of the people or the plot. I will probably not continue with this series.
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,864 reviews30.2k followers
June 2, 2018
Dude. You guys. Best YA high fantasy I’ve read in, well, a LONG time.

And one of the few 5 star ratings my stingy ass has handed out so far this year.

I did the old, “I’ll just read a couple of chapters before bed” nonsense and....yeah. Read it in one sitting.

The writing was engrossing, the plot moved along at a decent pace, and the characters were all layered and grew/developed throughout the story.

I also loved that the main character - although still a "chosen one" trope character - was not a cliched, archetype.

She was described as fairly insecure.
Not all that pretty.
And, as the book explicitly states - I'm not just being a bitch here (for once) - FAT.

Which was cool to see.

It's nice to have more varied and realistic characters playing the "hero" character these days, a character that used to be traditionally reserved solely for the perfect, hot (or hot but doesn't realize they are hot *eye roll*) character...especially as applied to female protagonists.

That said...I must say this.

I got a little nervous that I wasn't going to be able to finish this book.

And here's why.

I've discussed this before in another review somewhere - and I'm just too lazy to rehash it right now - but I've struggled with an eating disorder since my early teens. I have had it basically under control (or as much as you can "control" such things) since my mid-late 20's, but every now and then, something can start to trigger old habits.

And boy did this book start triggering me like none other.

As I said, the main character is fat. And who cares. Not me.

However, there is almost constant mention of her eating and thinking about eating.
And, not just eating, but unhealthily-bingeing-and-eating-my-feelings-style eating.

Now, for people who don't have eating disorders or know someone with one, it can be very difficult to understand. It seems silly and vain and should be solved with a simple, "Oh, just eat something," right?

Not so much.

Once you get in that mental space, it's very difficult to get out. Like, we are talking simple shit having the potential to trigger months/years of backsliding for me, as lame as that sounds.

So lame.
So silly.
SO legit.

But anyway. I don't want to beat a dead horse here or bore you with bullshit.

Long story, short: The constant talk of eating here started to make me a little nervous and I could feel once dead mental baggage start to rear up a bit; but thankfully, the story eventually moved forward from the constant mention of food, etc.

The Author Notes at the end - which I really enjoyed reading also - delved into why exactly Carson made her MC the way she did (as applied to weight and appearance) and I really appreciated her commentary.

But anyway, enough bullshit TMI no one cares about.

This is a great YA fantasy with a really great female MC and I would recommend it highly if you are interested in this genre.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
August 4, 2015
I feel torn about The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

On the one hand, there's not much room to accuse this book of being slow - the action is constant, zipping along from a bloody battle, to a lusty encounter (PG-13, of course), to another dramatic reveal, to a kidnapping. Elisa's life spins off in a crazy new direction that starts with her marriage to a King of a nearby country in chapter one, and the pacing never slows down after that.

Elisa is a 16-year-old princess and was born the bearer of a Godstone (a literal gift from God that rests in her navel). Because of this, Elisa must follow in the footsteps of other Godstone-bearers and perform a special service to God. Nobody knows what it will be. In fact, Elisa knows very little about her destiny and the lives of those who came before her. Many secrets will be revealed as the story moves along.

To be honest, though, the action only barely masks an incredibly messy and ill-conceived plot. Despite being a very different kind of story, I would compare it to books like Divergent and The Maze Runner, in that it has lots of flashy action and fast pacing, but underneath there lurks mediocre writing, all tell and no show, and flat characters separated into the "beautiful" and the unattractive/fat.

Elisa is characterized by her fatness. Am I glad that authors are creating heroines that are not all skinny, beautiful, white girls? Of course I am. But I feel like being fat and unattractive is the defining characteristic of Elisa. It might make her different, but alone it's not enough to make her interesting.

I recently read Sugar - another book about an overweight girl - and the protagonist's characterization is fascinating. I understood her complex relationship with food, her need to constantly eat, and her self-loathing when she did. Elisa is so one-dimensional in comparison.

Also, I'm surprised many reviewers haven't pointed out how... religious this is. I don't know if Religious Fantasy is a sub-genre but I find myself thinking it should be to accommodate Carson's book. Religion and praying play huge roles in this story. If you took the magical elements out, I could almost see this as your standard Christian novel.

I recommend this with some hesitation, and mainly to those who don't mind an action-packed plot with little substance behind it.

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Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.6k followers
July 26, 2011
2.5 stars

My ARC has the old version of the cover and it is super pretty, the blue tones of it are gorgeous:

I am glad the publishers changed it though. At the very least this book will be spared accusations of whitewashing and weightwashing. The heroine of this novel - Princess Elisa of Orovalle - describes herself as "dark," "brown" and also as "a big, bloated sausage" and "pig." Clearly, the cover doesn't quite match these adjectives.

Now onto the novel itself. 16-year old princess Elisa has a gift from God - a magical stone (Godstone) that she bears in her navel. As a Godstone-bearer, Elisa is fated to do a special Service for God, an act of heroism. What it is, nobody knows, especially not Elisa, who considers herself a fat, useless child. The Princess gets a glimpse of her purpose when she first becomes a wife of the King of a neighboring country and later is kidnapped by local rebels.

The strongest points of The Girl of Fire and Thorns are its plotting and pacing. The plot is engaging with some intriguing and trekking moving things along nicely, and the concept revolving around Godstones and Godstones-based magic is a unique one. Elisa is thrown from one adventure into another at a break-neck pace. The author manages to keep your attention on every page and gives no opportunity to get bored. In its pacing this fantasy is very similar to Divergent.

As for the rest, this is the case when I wish some other author wrote this story. There is just something very unripe, maybe even pedestrian about how The Girl of Fire and Thorns is written. It is plagued by rookie flaws.

First, this novel is a perfect example of what happens when an author is incapable of adhering to the show-not-tell rule. Everything I know about characters, I know because Elisa told me. I know that Elisa is fat, but only because she repeatedly talked about herself like that: "I am fat as a pig. I'll go get me some more cake." I know that her new husband is a coward because she told me so. I know that Elisa is going through internal transformation because Elise told me one day she was fat and stupid and the next day she told me she felt different inside and ready to kill, fight and lead a rebellion. Nothing seems to be revealed in this story through dialog or actions.

Then, there is a case of romantic-trope loving. For instance, Elisa is married to a stranger in the first chapter. There is a wedding night the same evening and Elisa instantaneously feels she wants "more than a little kiss." Of course, it is a YA novel, so nobody has any sex. (Let me add here, I abhor when authors put their teen characters in situations where logically they would have to have sex, but they don't due to some lame reason. Like here, it is a royal marriage, surely it ought to be consummated. Or like in Wither, where the heroine is kidnapped for the sole purpose of being impregnated, but somehow manages to avoid sex for a year while her husband has no problem sleeping with a 13-year old.) And another example, Elisa is kidnapped and when she sees her kidnapper, her first thoughts are: "I gasp, for his face is only a handspan above mine. I notice his eyes first, huge and glimmering brown like polished bread-nuts. They are framed by more hair than I've ever see on a boy." I am sorry, but aren't you supposed to be scared of your kidnapper? This is not a Harlequin romance, is it?

There are other things I could latch on to and rant about, but they are more of a personal nature and I think every reader will have to decide for him/herself if it is worth ranting about. These things are: Elisa's fatness and how it is portrayed by the author (IMO, Elisa is the flattest fat person I have ever read about - I have no clue why she overeats, how she feels while overeating and if losing weight was what made her a superhero); and also if this novel should be categorized as Christian lit - the whole story here is basically guided by God and Elisa is a devout believer and prays a lot. Although you can argue that this is a fantasy novel, so it can be any kind of deity, not necessarily a Christian one.

I would recommend The Girl of Fire and Thorns to those who like action-driven books and can overlook deficiencies in character development. For everyone else, I say The Blue Sword and The Queen of Attolia are much better YA fantasy offerings.

As for me, while I somewhat enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns's plot, the lack of swoony teen love or good dialog and a Mary Sue-like main character who succeeds at everything she does, becomes a super-duper warrior queen literally overnight and is loved by everyone will probably stop me from continuing on with this trilogy.
Profile Image for Katerina.
422 reviews16.9k followers
November 19, 2016
“And God raised up for Himself a champion. Yea, once in every four generations He raised him up to bear His mark.”

What better way to take a break from stupid reality things like essays and demanding classes than a YA fantasy book about war, prophecy, an unlikely heroine and mouth-watering food? Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleasantly surprised!

“Lucero-Elisa. Heavenly light, chosen of God. His words suffocate me as surely as his embrace. All my life, I've been reminded that I am destined for service.”

Destined for service she has yet to discover, chosen for an unknown task that will affect her entire world, princess Elisa is trapped in a prison of expectation and ignorance. When she is forced to marry a king she has never met in order to forge a military alliance, she realizes that being solitary and secluded is not an option anymore, that she needs to use her wit to survive in a court full of rivals and save her people from an enemy who has the resources to destroy them, and herself. For it is the Godstone she bears in her belly, the mark of God that everyone is craving that might determine the outcome of the war.
“I loved and lost and survived.”

Rae Carson narrated a different story. The story of a girl who was suffocating under the pressure of being God's chosen one, who had to overcome her insecurities and everybody's mocking and stand up for herself and the ones who needed her. The Girl of Fire and Thorns was a coming of age tale that depicted in a realistic, relatable way the struggles of a teenager who ate too much and was not the epitome of beauty or grace, who at first was self-centered and isolated by choice and had to face the real world in order to grow up, become responsible and love herself despite her flaws. Elisa's transformation was astonishing, and Rae's message was plain and simple: first accept yourself and then the others will accept you. All the beauty in the world does not matter if you are rotten inside, if you don't use your brain, if your soul isn't kind.

The world-building and the magic system were painted with bright colours, the religion and each culture unfolded naturally and I absolutely loved the court schemings and the war strategies! There was adventure, intrigue and sorcery and plans that didn't work out that made my heartbeat unsteady and I am pretty sure the next books will be even more gripping! The only thing I didn't enjoy was the romance. Yeah, I can hear your jaw dropping! I found it forced, it lacked of connection and the love interest was rather indifferent. I would be grateful if the next books focused on enigmatic Lord Hector who picked my interest even though I hate moustaches!

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the first instalment of very promising series about war, destiny, religion and magic, with many interesting characters and an entrancing plotline! I absolutely recommend it!
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
852 reviews3,882 followers
February 15, 2021

1.5 stars. All in all incredibly underwhelming and somewhat both idiotic and infuriating. Trust me, I would love to tell you that my distaste only revolves around personal matters - as a strong case of "it's not the book but me", let's say - but in all honesty, I really don't think that and the problems I had with The Girl of Fire and Thorns were way too numerous to be left ignored.

"You must not lose faith, child. No matter what. Do not doubt God or his choosing of you. He knows infinitely more than we can imagine."

The Girl of Fire and Thorns can be considered as fast-paced, if you don't mind following characters you don't care about ← I do mind. You know what I also mind? When quantity prevails over quality. Hé, sure, I cannot deny how action-packed the story is but I'd rather read about few in-depth plot points than a succession of superficial twists, because you know what? Wandering around (even in an active fashion) is plain boring all the same. Had the characters stand still for more than 5 pages, perhaps I would have been able to start feeling something. Sadly I didn't.

Many of my friends loved this book, and because I am naturally trustful (alright, maybe not), I kept reading when I wanted to DNF the hell out of it around 40%. Did it pay off? Huh, not really. Although the plot does pick up in the last 30%, the way events take place stays way too convenient and simple for my liking.

Not to mention that the writing was terrible, and by that I don't mean grammatical mistakes (there are none that I noticed) - No, I mean that everything was told to me and never ever shown.

True story : My favorite character is a 5 years-old boy whose appearance doesn't last more than 5 pages. Huh-oh, I may have a problem here. Truth be told, none of these characters were rage-inducing. Nah. They were too busy wandering around, bland and flat as fuck.

First of all, I'm not sure how Elisa avoided to be called on her Mary Sue status. Is it because she's fat and YA books tend to consider overweight as a synonym of ugly? The girl is God chosen, for crying out loud. Oh, she tells us that she's useless, but then she tells us so many things, I LOST COUNT. Really, though? She gives war advices that get everyone happy, does wonders with children - she even spreads martyr vibes at some point (but on that aspect she improves, woot!).

I didn't hate Elisa, because I didn't care enough to do so, but it doesn't mean that I liked the way her characterization was handled.

In my opinion, she conveys a disturbing and infuriating portray of overweight. Look, at first I was really happy to finally see a YA heroine who isn't strikingly beautiful, skinny, and white. So much wasted potential unfortunately. A book isn't body positive when the MC's growth is linked to her lost of weight and when fatness is only seen in a negative light (God forbid that a fat girl be beautiful - yes, there is a pun in there).

You gotta love pig metaphors, really.

"... as if I am a juicy pig roast garnished with pepper sauce"

Seriously. What's up with that? Did I miss a memo? Is it considered as normal and healthy that an overweight MC - one of the only ones I met in YA - constantly self-depreciates herself? Is repeating all over again that she isn't worthy and beautiful because she's not thin serves some purpose I somehow didn't grasp?

Does she ever realize that her weight - past and present - doesn't begin to define who she is? No, and really, how could she, when the plot never lets any room for that? I do realize that self-loathing can be linked to appearances, especially during the teenage years. I just wish that this important issue had been dealt with more complexity and depth, because as it is, I cannot condone it.

Then come the male-leads. Oh my GOSH what is it with these guys?

Who the fuck is Lord Hector? His entire characterization is built around the twisting of his moustache. I KID YOU NOT.

I won't bother talking about the weak husband Oh, oops, I just did.

Do not fear, though! Just wait and meet Humberto, the smiling, puppy-like desert man who never convinced me enough to care.


To be fair, I did enjoy Cosmé and Ximena when they were present, but I still feel as if Rae Carson only scratched the surface of their personalities, unfortunately.

And do not get me started about these painted-faced enemies we know nothing about. As a rule, all the villains are plain EVIL, without any nuances. BO-RING.

More generally, I found two ways of dividing the whole set of characters :
Way #1 : The Fat vs. The Beautiful
Way #2 : Those who like Elisa vs. Those who don't like Elisa

This is the extend of characterization as far as I'm concerned, and I have yet to see some dynamics in there (at this point, I'm not even asking for chemistry).

Again, a fail. Let's talk about the religious stuff, okay? I saw many readers stating that it wasn't Christian at all (but then why not name the god something else, and why make it seem like a Bible parable, and why add some martyr vibes, I wonder), and I'm ready to acknowledge the fact that I have literally no patience for praying and sentences like "god knows all" in my books. Granted, it irks me something fierce in Fantasy, but let's not take my personal taste into account, okay?

Let's forget that I had to suffer from entire paragraphs like this :

"My soul glorifies God; let rejoice in my Savior
For he has been mindful of his humble servant
Blessed am I among generations
For he lifted me from the dying world
Yea, with his righteous right hand he lifted me
He has redeemed his people, given them new life abundant
My soul glorifies God; let it rejoice in my Savior."

(for full disclosure, I have to point that they're in church at this moment, and this is not the MC talking, but a priest)

Let's also not mention the constant praying, okay? It still bothers me very much. Why, you ask? Because it may be one of the LAZIEST magical system I've ever read about. What the fuck is this shit, really? So she prays and the God Gemstone in her belly-button helps her .... Sometimes?

REALLY?! RANDOM MUCH?! I can't believe how easy and idiotic it makes the plot. No explanation needed - because GOD. Pl-ease. Give me a break.

Sigh. I could go on and on and on, it would remain that I'm in the almost non-existent minority on this one, and sad to be. In all honesty, I know that I can enjoy YA Fantasy, even tropey - I recently read and loved the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. The Girl of Fire and Thorns doesn't compare anywhere near the still predictable The Demon King. And I'm not even talking about the awesomeness of The Lumatere Chronicles.

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Profile Image for Anne.
4,065 reviews69.5k followers
May 11, 2016
I don't know.
I liked some parts of it, but it was weird/draggy/& preachy in parts, too. Guess I'll settle on 3 stars?

First off, the whole stone in the belly button thing was sort of strange...& eventually (when she tried to dig it out) off-putting for me.
I just...ewwww.


Now, supposedly, she was given the stone by God to help her do something special, but the records of the previous Stone Bearers seemed sketchy at best. Some of them accomplished something, some of them died young, and most of them faded into obscurity. So....
What's the deal with the friggin stone?!
Like most things that God gives, there aren't any instructions that come with it. If something good happens, it's because God and/or the stone heard her prayers, and if something bad happens it was because it furthered God and/or the stone's greater plan.
It's just very hard for me to get behind that way of thinking, so this may be a series more suited to someone with faith in his/her religion.


As far as the Big Showdown at the end?

No. No, no, no!
Get the fuck outta here with that bullshit.


Ok, the ambiguous nature of the stone, the religious aspects, and a weird (I felt) superpower reveal were the biggest drawbacks to this book.
There were several things I quite enjoyed about this one, as well.
The main thing was Elisa herself.
She wasn't perfect, gorgeous, overly skilled, or particularly good at much. Although, she was intelligent.
And I know most of the other reviewers have mentioned it, but I thought it was a nice touch that she was also overweight. Yes, she did end up losing quite a few pounds, but (my opinion) that wasn't a bad thing, since it mentions several times how winded she got when she did stuff. So...yeah. In the beginning she appeared to be a bit unhealthy, and with some diet & exercise she lost enough to feel good. I do like the fact that she wasn't a stick figure after she lost the weight, though.
Healthy is great, starving to be thin is not.


I was also happily taken in with the complexity of Elisa's relationships. Everything felt very layered and real when it came to the characters and their motivations. Even her husband and his odd insistence on (and her agreement to!) their strange secret marriage felt plausible under the circumstances.
Well done, Ms. Carson!


So. While I wasn't blown away, I'm semi-interested in finding out how everything turns out. I'm kinda waffling on picking up the next book, but if nothing better comes along...
Profile Image for Lindsey Rey.
286 reviews2,710 followers
November 22, 2014
DEAR EVERYBODY: YOU NEED TO READ THIS!!! Seriously, what Rae Carson does with this book is brilliant and extremely refreshing! Everything is so honest and genuine and I loved every moment of it.
Profile Image for High Lady of The Night Court.
135 reviews5,081 followers
October 2, 2018
Truly honorable death, the only honorable death, is one that enables life.

I enjoyed reading this book but not in the way I expected. The characters were very realistic and the concept of the Godstone was very unique. The story moves at a good pace and I look forward to seeing where Rae Carson takes this story. This book, in my opinion, had enough potential to be left as a standalone but there are 2 more books and I am genuinely interested in seeing how our protagonist grows into the position she reaches at the end of the book.

There was definitely a lot growth in the protagonist’s personality but the growth was not unrealistically fast or like an epiphany to think differently, the arc in her personality was fitting because of the hardships she endures which led her to grow as a person. Once I finished the book, I thought back on how our protagonist was thinking about herself and the people around her in the first quarter of the book and the maturity and understanding in her actions and thoughts at the end of the book was miraculous.

Our protagonist, Elisa is the bearer of a Godstone, a bearer is chosen once in every century and they are believed to be destined to a litre of service. It's Elisa’s sixteenth birthday which also happens to be the day she is to wed King Alejandro. She believes marrying him and completing this ‘peace treaty’ she was never told about, is her act of service. She is very mistaken. Turns out the people who told her everything she knows about the Godstone were holding out on her. There is so much she has yet to learn about her role as the bearer and the responsibilities that come along with it. There are people out there who want the Godstone from her, and they will stop at nothing to take it from her.

Elisa is the bearer of the Godstone, and in that she is blessed, but in every other aspect of her life she believes she remains unimportant. Her sister, Alodia, has always been the favored one, she is the heir to the throne and deals with all the political aspects of her kingdom along with their father.
But in the first chapter, it is clear that more than anything Elisa vies for her sister’s competence, grace, and beauty. She is clearly jealous of her sister and in her jealousy she assumes her sister hates her. Watching her become her own person, growing to her full potential is very interesting. She sees past her jealousy of her sister and realises her love for her and accepts it.

I enjoyed watching her find people she can trust and making friends(in very unlikely circumstances, mind you). She realizes her true purpose and finds meaning in her life which also paves a path for her to self-acceptance. I look forward to reading more books by Rae Carson and I rate this one 4 stars.
757 reviews2,350 followers
March 25, 2017
3.5 stars

This book was weird. It so boring at times yet somewhat enjoyable. The only reason I was able to enjoy this was because of that romance. Seriously, what the fuck happened, I'm still screaming.

Here are some reasons why I liked this book:

We don't have a skinny MC. I love how Elisa wasn't a skinny heroine and what she looks like shouldn't matter. She was smart, brave, thought and extremely fucking annoying at times and I loved it.

◇I loved how Humberto treated her. He fell in love with her because of her personality and he didn't care that she was fat, which seriously shouldn't matter.


This book has God in it. Which was very weird at first, but then I got used to it and was pretty normal about it. It's weird seeing God in a YA Fantasy book. I'm religious and it was very weird at first because it's not something we read about everyday. But I'm glad to see a book where God plays an impact. It isn't even preachy so that's great.

What I didn't like:

◇The fucking plot. The plot takes a completely new turn in the second half of this book, like what the fuck is even going on. Slow down, I'm dumb, let me process all this, thanks.

◇This was very boring and slow at times??? Like I was ready to DNF this around 200 pages BUT THEN HUMBERTO CAME IN AND SAVED THE DAY.

This was a great read and I'd like to read the sequel.
Profile Image for Simona B.
898 reviews3,011 followers
February 10, 2017
"God's will. How many times have I heard someone declare their understanding of this thing I find so indefinable?"

Sometimes it's fascinating how authors can synthesize their own books in just one sentence strategically hidden in the books themselves. Hats off.

•One of the main complaints readers usually have when it comes to this book is the main character. In all honesty, Elisa may be difficult to stand, especially because, especially at the beginning, her way of thinking is strictly linked to her being overweight. Basically, she's a whining ball of self-pity 90% of the time -as I said, though, as the story proceeds things get a lot better in this respect. I was bothered by Elisa's pity parties, yes, but not particularly (between you and me, my physical constitution is not on the slim side and I had and have to struggle to stay in some kind of shape. So, maybe I empathized? Probably. She can be very irritating, though). Moreover, I would have liked to see her gain some trust in herself while she was still fat, instead it felt like the fact that she lost some weight served as a kind of watershed between wimp Elisa and heroine Elisa. I know the author didn't want to convey such at all, but that's how I felt about it.

•But again, how she dealt with her weight is not the main problem -or anyway, it wasn't my main problem. No, my main problem, with the protagonist and with the whole book in general, was Elisa's insufferable self-righteousness.
Practical examples:

"And then comes the most dreadful thought of all: Is it possible, then, that God would choose bearers among the enemy?"


"It's God's will."
I almost stab him right then. What would this man know of God's will? He is insane, hardly human [...] my enemy presumes to know the mind of God."

or, and this one is the most disgusting of all,

"They were locked inside that building," he says in a wavery voice. "They were left to burn."
"Oh, God." The cruelty of it is unfathomable."

I'm sorry, so no one remembers that she did the very same thing to the man of quote 2, knocking him out, setting fire to his tent, and leaving him in the tent? No one?
After reading (many) things like these, I was sure she was going to start shouting "Kill the infidels!" any moment. She's so pious, so moral, so pristine, and then she can't even consider that God is also on the side of someone that's not her. I'm sure many, many colonizers thought the very same things. Thus, sorry, but I am pretty appalled.

•Also, she solves pretty much anything by praying it away. I'm not saying she can't be smart and self-sufficient when she wants, but as soon as a problem arises her first thought is "Please God make it right". Mmmh okay? Even though that makes for a very lazy magic system since sometimes it works and that's pretty much all there's to it?
This is not a book about religion (which I think it's supposed to be, among other things); this is merely a book with religion. Its role, though pivotal, I guess, is passive. Religion is not properly trotted into play, it is not questioned or pondered or reflected upon. It's there, it says there: be happy with it as it is.

•I absolutely do not condone this horrid things authors usually do when they introduce a character only to kill him for the sake of drama. If there's something I hate, that's it: bending the rules of a good storytelling to drama. Please. Like, please. But the funniest thing was, I wasn't even surprised because it was so obvious that's how it was going to go. Wait, no, there's something even funnier: . Like, you're no one without a love interest around, Elisa. Because again you need an external acknowledgement since you feel ugly et cetera. Again, I can't help finding that a little degrading, even though I'm perfectly aware that the author wanted to propose a heroine completely different from what I perceived. Though, if I did not perceive the right way (if I perceived her so wrongly) something is probably amiss.

•As for the rest, there's really not much to say. The plot does its job without being particularly outstanding, and honestly some parts actually saw me bored out of my mind. The characters are average too, with Elisa's exception (a let-me-punch-her exception), while the world-building, as I said, I found rather lacking.

➽ Now the question is: will I continue the trilogy? Probably. Many of my friends keep telling me The Crown of Embers is so much better, and I truly am curious, because even though I don't give a fig for the characters, I've got a soft spot for strong-willed and determined heroines (okay: I like them when they are downright fierce and also totally cold-hearted) and Elisa's development does bode well. Fingers crossed.
Profile Image for ❄️BooksofRadiance❄️.
614 reviews764 followers
December 13, 2017

Help, I feel… nothing.

You know when you can’t say you hated or loved a book because you can't even remember what went on? That's how I feel right now. I don’t remember half the characters much less the plot because I was so bored and I’ve only finished it just a few hrs ago. 🤦‍♀️
Pray you don't feel the dread of indifference, my friends because a lack of any emotion towards a book is far worse than hating it. At least then you still feel… something.
However, all’s not doom and gloom because I’m not heartbroken over my disappointment as I went into this not because I expected to be blown away but to get to the second book. If THAT ends up disappointing me, then I’ll simply have to punch someone.

Anyhow, let's get to it.
Lucero-Elisa’s a reluctant, plus-size princess of Oravalle, who was born with a Godstone in her belly. A mark that comes only once a century - a sign that she’s marked out by divinity for a great destiny. Told in the first person narrative, we’re sucked right into Elisa’s world as the story opens on the day of her marriage to King Alejandro of a neighbouring kingdom, Joya d’Arena, for a political allegiance.
After the marriage, she sets off to her husband’s kingdom and… this is where it all falls apart.

The mystery element of the book was completely lost on me because I found nothing mysterious about it and the characters were simply too boring to remember. The other issue I had was that many of the conflicts were resolved too quickly and far too conveniently. It was one of those plots where it’s so predictable that you knew how it ended before it even began.


Though I was extremely underwhelmed by the plot, Elisa was the redeeming factor of this book (and why I gave it 3 stars). I. Loved. Her.
As intelligent as she is, Elisa’s insecurities seep through the pages. Right from the beggining, she had the odds stacked against her - married and shipped off to a strange land, carying the weight and responsibilities of being the Godstone bearer, which put her in constant danger, she has serious insecurity about her appearance and considers herself to be fat & ugly and is very self deprecating - When we first meet her, struggling to fit into her wedding dress, she compares herself to a sausage and hopes that her unseen husband will be ugly, or old to protect herself from his inevitable disgust. Moreover, once outside the walls of her own country, she experiences the horror of battle, of betrayal and of loss but through it all, she never once complains or gives up.
Hallelujah! A YA heroine who isn't whiny! Instead, using her intelligence, she tries to find a way through the innumerable challenges thrown in her path and over the course of the novel, Elisa grows into her own and blossoms from uncertain and self-doubting girl to a capable and respected leader.

While this book fell short on many levels (I’ve always had issues with first books and this was no exception) I do plan on continuing with the series. I am nothing if not an optimist and Hopefully I’ll have better luck with the next one.


I’ve heard so many mixed reviews for this book and the curiosity is killing me, so, I’m going to give it a try and judge for myself.

Here goes...
Profile Image for Dear Faye.
492 reviews2,124 followers
June 4, 2014
Oh, my goodness.

A heroine who actually thinks for herself?
A heroine who doesn't get swayed by hot men?
A heroine who overcomes her fears realistically and courageously?
A heroine who is perfect in her imperfections?
A heroine who is flawed yet so real?


Ooh. La. Freaking. La.

To say that I enjoyed this book is an understatement.

It's been a while since I finished a book in one sitting. Seriously, recently, it takes me 3-5 days max to finish a single book. This one woke me up from that horrendous daze and made me remember why reading is so enjoyable.

And yes, if you haven't picked up the hint, this is to say you have to read this book now if you haven't yet. Now, now, now!
Profile Image for Jeff.
143 reviews405 followers
May 22, 2018

This book has a very strong female character.
And guess what??
Probably one of the first maybe only books that have a girl who isn't that skinny, and perfect little 'ordinary' girl.

So to all u peoples out there........... u is beautiful
So screw body image, eat all the cake ya want

But besides this, Elisa, (the pastry loving-princess), bears an amazing power. (ooh la la)
That's right, folks.
You've got an all in one character that you'll absolutely love. ;)

-amazing MC
-Hot but imperfect dudes. (why else would i pick this up?)

Profile Image for Cinda.
Author 33 books11.2k followers
June 21, 2011
I recommend this for fans of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, and my own high fantasy. This is a transformation story that teens and adults can believe in. Never condescending.
Profile Image for tonya..
227 reviews242 followers
October 6, 2014
This was one of those books I have a hard time rating, simply because some elements were very well done, and others very poorly done.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the story of Elisa, princess to the country of Oravalle and bearer of the Godstone, a jewel implanted in her navel that signifies she is marked by god as one who will do a Service. Elisa has no idea what her Service will be, and can't imagine herself ever being useful to her country. She is merely the overweight, shy younger daughter of the King, overshadowed in every way by her cunning and charming sister. Her life consists of reading and eating... until she is forced to marry the King of the neighboring country in order to strengthen their alliance and build a greater army against their common enemy: the Invierne. What follows is her transformation from dispassionate, useless girl to a hero.

In theory, anyway.

Though the writing and premise was strong and engaging, the entire novel was nearly ruined for me by the protagonist's personality in the first two-thirds of the book. While I do give credit to Carson for creating a main character who is not slender and beautiful and lusted after by every male in the story, I wish she had made Elisa stronger. I could relate at times to her emotional overeating and her feelings of unworthiness, but it was overdone to the point of annoyance. Elisa's weight and relationship with food should not have taken the place of personality, but it was nearly all we got.

Though Elisa did eventually become a strong character, the fact that it was not until she'd lost weight was offensive, in my opinion. She was educated and knowledgeable in war time strategy, could she not have been a strong force from the beginning? I understand character arcs, but her weight loss as the catalyst for her transformation was insulting. And frankly, though I am not one to believe that young people are so impressionable that books could sway them in a negative direction, I think this book sends the wrong message to young girls.

However, if you are looking for a good fantasy read, I do see potential in the series moving forward. By the end of the book, Elisa had developed into a strong, mostly likable character. And though there are two more books in the series, The Girl of Fire and Thorns was a complete story, with few lingering threads at its end.

2.5 stars, rounding up to three in good faith for the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
596 reviews3,588 followers
October 7, 2017
DNF at 50%

"I understand why it is better to die from my service than never complete it at all. Far, far better. Homer and Damian never profited from their acts of heroism; everyone who followed did. In the same way, I may never reap the benefits of mine, should I complete it. But that doesn't matter, because God placing his stone in my belly was never about me."

I firmly believe a new genre should be carved out just for The Girl of Fire and Thorns: Religious Fantasy. Lord, is it preachy—just look at some of these quotes: "The Scriptura Sancta says that all men are equal in the sight of God" or "My soul glorifies God; let it rejoice in my Savior".

There's nothing wrong with incorporating religion in fictional universes. But when it bears a remarkable resemblance to a religion that currently exists in our world, you start to wonder what the book's agenda is. (Every book promotes some sort of message or value. Those that cry "It's just fiction!" and has no impact on our world at all are just deluding themselves.)

Again, overt religion does not equal bad. Simply, from my heathen agnostic perspective, it doesn't make for enjoyable reading.

I liked the main character, Elisa. In fact, I cheered when I saw that she was fat and unabashedly portrayed as such. Some reviewers have mentioned that she's defined by her "fatness" and though I see where they're coming from, I thought it was refreshing to have a YA heroine is self-conscious about her weight, yet also loves eating (admittedly sometimes as a form of therapy). At the same thing, she's the Chosen One, and is battle strategy-savvy and uses it to make up for her shortcomings.

As someone who's naturally thin, however, I'm ready to concede my perspective is flawed. And Elisa does thin down later in the plot, which is implied as beauty. So take this point with healthy skepticism.

There's a love triangle, which I saw coming a light year away. Nothing really special, just your typical royalty vs. peasant duel.

Final verdict—Papa don't preach. Do it somewhere else.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,645 reviews1,512 followers
April 26, 2020
Reread time with Jessica

*chanting* please hold up, please hold up. please hold up. I loved this series the first time through. So lets do it all again. I'm really hoping it is just as good.


Whew and it did hold up well. I'm going to stick with my 4 star rating and since I knew some of the bigger plot points I was able to focus in a little more on a certain Captain of the Guard. Hector, you are amazing.

Original Review

I will preface that I was a little worried about this book when I started. It seemed like there would be some religious intonations and sometimes that can get a bit preachy and be a total turn off for me. I will say that wasn’t the case at all. The Godstone is a part of the story but Elisa is the story. I can truthfully say I never felt preached to or at.

The book starts out with the wedding of a princess to a prince. But she isn’t your normal princess or heroine in books. She is timid, fat and so unsure of herself. Elisa was born with a Godstone in her bellybutton and that means that she has a destiny, she has been chosen. But, Elisa doesn’t feel special or chosen and has no idea why this honor was bestowed upon her especially when her sister is the one it seems to have all the beauty and talent. She is married off to a man she has never met and whisked away to his country. This is where the action begins, because even the journey is treacherous. The caravan is attacked on the way to Elisa’s new home and she has her first opportunity in the presence of danger to shine.

I loved Elisa in this book, she grew so much. In the beginning she was a little hard to love as a main character because she seemed so weak and pampered finding comfort in food. But right away she starts to grow into her own and become a woman from the little girl she was. I was so intrigued by what the godstone meant and why everyone is trying to hide that Elisa bears it. She has studied the art of war and religious texts all of her life in preparation for whatever her destiny is. She became very interesting and after meeting the rest of the supporting characters I was hooked. Her Journey through this book was fantastic; she was brave and used her mind to win the battles she faced. I think that it was really telling of the characters that recognized her after her transformation; those are the people that really loved her, saw her.

Once I finished the book I couldn’t wait to start the next book in the series. I wanted more time with all the characters. Fantastic first book.
Profile Image for Victoria.
982 reviews
March 18, 2013
How many fat, introverted, intellectual princesses do we have in YA fantasy lit—-or any fiction, for that matter? I appreciate that Rae Carson went to the effort of writing against type. Despite noble efforts, though, this book is just a pile of fail.

What made me angry with this book? Let me count the ways:

1. Fat hate: I'm sure that overweight readers (especially those who have issues with binging) will identify with Elisa, but I'm really fucking exhausted of every overweight central character in any book ever (and I can only think of three, yeesh) having an overeating disorder. It's simplistic at best and insulting at worst.

2. Weight loss equated with the protagonist coming into her own: Of course, Princess Elisa loses a ton of weight when she's captured by rebels, forced to walk across a desert for a month, and then compelled to lead the rebel forces in battle. Sigh.

3. Weight loss equated with heroism: Almost no one respects Elisa until she loses weight. It's presented as coincidental--she hasn't done anything yet to merit respect--but frankly, you're writing a book for teens. Don't do shit like that.

4. Jungle savages: There's an attack early in the book by jungle savages with "evil" tattoos etc. etc. Yes, Ms. Carson, this is racism.

5. Stockholm syndrome equated with romance: So, the rebels that captured Elisa and brought her over to their side in the war? Naturally, there's a young, handsome man among them who looks out for her when she's helpless and who eventually becomes the romantic interest. We're teaching young women that they should look for a charmer who kidnaps them, then? (Enough of Twilight already.)

6. Shyness as an obstacle to worth: There's an underlying message here that while Elisa was shy and avoided the spotlight, she was useless. She's only valuable, only worthy of respect, once she starts taking action and leading the rebels. Introverts, sensitive sorts, and shy kids—you're not welcome here, either.


Dear author, not every fat girl has an eating disorder. Not every fat girl needs to be kidnapped out of her bed, forced to walk for a month in the desert, and conveniently find her inner skinny chick in the course of becoming the hero she is supposed to be—-even as she obsesses over food and her weight on virtually every single page. Every. Page.

Elisa saves the day on brains and stubbornness. While the book is eminently readable and Elisa is more humanly flawed than most protagonists, I had to force my way through against the downright frustrating, annoying, and bigoted characterization.
Profile Image for Ashley Cruzen.
342 reviews540 followers
January 27, 2016

I reeeeeeeeally liked this. This was such a refreshing YA fantasy I didn't realize how much I needed something like this. The premise was interesting and unique and I felt many different feels while reading this story.

I would also like to note that (for me anyway) the synopsis does not do this book justice at all. I really expected this to be more of a fluff fantasy and I ended up putting it off for so long because of it.

Very much looking forward to continuing!
Profile Image for Mango.
238 reviews315 followers
June 7, 2021
“I loved and lost and survived.”

~2.5 stars~

First of all, thank you Rita and Erica for Buddy Reading this with me! It was a pleasure discussing this book with you. I had a blast!

Moving onto the review:

Okay. So, I don’t really know what to say about this book. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t horrible either. The plot was okay, but I found the characters a bit bland and the writing kind of hard to get into. There was honestly nothing which stood out to me in this book. But if you want a quick read, I think this would be a decent read.

Let’s start with the plot:

The plot was mediocre. It’s not something I can gush about, but it’s not something I can full-on roast either. Again, if you just want a quick read, this plot will be good. However, if you want a plot to make you actually think, well sorry. Not for you.

Elisa, the main character, has been chosen by God. As a result, she has this semi-alive gem in her navel, called the Godstone.

However, despite her having this supposed power, her life is still controlled by her father, the king. It doesn’t help that she is overshadowed by her older sister.

As a result, her father marries her off to King Alejandro, to secure an alliance between Elisa’s kingdom, and Alejandro’s kingdom. However, things don’t always go as they seem.

Soon Elisa is thrown into sudden danger for the power she yields. People try to poison her, humiliate her, and even try to openly kill her. Not only does she have to avoid these attacks, but Alejandro refuses to openly acknowledge that Elisa is his wife.

After a few weeks of this, Elisa is suddenly kidnapped. But she is not kidnapped for deadly reasons. Her kidnappers want her help to save them. Some animagi (sorcerers) are planning to invade their desert kingdom, and they think the wielder of the Godstone can help.

So Elisa is tasked with saving the desert kingdom.

So, I liked the plot pacing. It was fast and adventurous, I liked it. However, I did think there were many plot holes, and praying was literally most of the plot. The story was either Elisa complaining on how fat she is, or praying for her life.

And then suddenly, she turned into some great leader, which thankfully made the plot better.

There weren’t a lot of plot twists either. It was quite straightforward, and I found the deaths undeveloped and rushed.

So overall, the plot is only worthy if you want a quick book to read. It won’t make you fascinated, or addicted.

However, I did like the concept of the Godstone though. I think if the author touched a bit more upon the Godstone rather than Elisa’s size, it would have been better.

Continuing onto the characters:

So...no. Sorry, but the characters just didn’t do it for me. They were bland and underdeveloped. But they weren’t all bad either.

While the author didn’t give us characters with bursting personalities, she did kind of show us some growth. That counts for something.

But, Carson mainly focused on Elisa (MC). The other characters were mainly treated as side characters.

Elisa: I mean...she was okay. I found her conflicts and growth depicted pretty well, but she literally had no personality. That made it hard for me to connect to her. It was also kind of annoying to be in her head. She always thought God, God, God. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind religious mentionings, but when it’s literally the only thing a character talks about, it gets annoying.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, I myself am religious, and respect everyone’s beliefs.

However, I guess Elisa’s character development made up for it. Carson portrayed Elisa’s conflicts quite well, with her deciding for herself what’s right and what’s wrong.

Elisa also definitely grew quite a bit. She learned not to be scared to be put into the spotlight, and developed lots of leadership skills.

So Elisa was pretty decent. I’m not in love with her, but I don’t absolutely hate her either.

Alejandro: I know he was kind of a side character, but I didn’t like him one bit. He was selfish, fake, and pretty much a coward.

I don’t mind characters like this, if they actually learn their lessons and grow. But he didn’t. I think he was very selfish to hide the fact that he and Elisa were married. Alejandro was also definitely not a great king. For reasons why, I would have to give spoilers, but he was not good.

He also had a really bland personality, and literally no character development.

Humberto: He was decent. At least Humberto had a personality, unlike Elisa and Alejandro. He was also portrayed as a side character, but I feel as if I should include him.

Humberto, one of Elisa’s ‘kidnappers,’ cared for Elisa daily. He made sure Elisa was kept well physically, and mentally.

While there was no growth or conflict in him, he seemed like a nice guy. Period.

Cosme: Cosme was definitely my favorite out of all them. She is so talented for someone so young. She had a personality, and I think she grew a decent bit throughout the story.

When Cosme first met Elisa, she was her maid. However, Cosme ridiculed Elisa a lot by scoffing and sneering at her. Her thoughts on Elisa don’t change when she helps Humberto ‘kidnap’ Elisa.

However, throughout the book, Cosme grows warm to Elisa and helps lead alongside her. She learned to trust once again, and even smile.

So to conclude, the characters were not this book’s strong suit. These are the type of characters I could easily forget within a month. Nothing special about them whatsoever.

Continuing onto the writing:

Not much to say about the writing. It was mediocre, and had no unique features. I honestly found the writing hard to get into, and the sentences were poorly structured. So meh. Writing wasn’t strong either.

Anyways, this was an okay read. If you read it, you will read it mainly for the plot. Not for the characters, not for the writing. Definitely a forgettable read. But, again, if you’re just looking for a quick read, you can pick this up!

I will be continuing the series, because I’m hoping it gets better.

Not bad...a bit disappointed, but it was a nice read. Review to come!
Got this from the library! Hope it's good...I'm seeing a lot of mixed reviews about this.
Profile Image for Lauren.
Author 45 books119k followers
May 7, 2014

There is a special place in my heart for fantasy novels. I love getting lost in a world that exists only because one person dreamed it. There’s nothing more exciting than starting a new book that feels different from anything you’ve read before.

Immediately, I knew that The Girl of Fire and Thorns was one such book. As it opens, the protagonist, Elisa, is worried about fitting into her wedding dress, and praying that her husband will be ugly because she’s so worried she’ll disappoint him. YA frequently deals with the anxiety of not feeling accepted, with feelings of not fitting in, but it is rare to see a novel that unflinchingly describes the very real exclusion and ridicule that Elisa is subjected to from her community.

It’s also a story that completely flips the racial dichotomy that has become attached to high fantasy novels, at least since Lord of the Rings, where the good guys are associated with white, and the villain’s otherness is synonymous with blackness and dark. I don’t want to spoil too much… but Carson has built a fantasy world that defies expectations, genre conventions, and challenges our perceptions of race and the body head on.
Profile Image for Yumiko.
232 reviews546 followers
September 2, 2023
Is YA getting worse, or am I just picking up all the shitty, disgusting books?

I don't even have it in me to write a rant review right now, so I'll just write a shortened version. I. Hate. This. Book.

The Young Adult genre is becoming extremely repetitive, and I am so tired of it. There is nothing new out there anymore. It's either

A) *GASP* You're an ordinary, stupid, illiterate, or ugly/fat (as is the case with this book) person who suddenly discovers that you are such a speshul, speshul, speshul (emphasis on speshul) girl with such speshul speshul speshul powers. Congratulations. You are probably going to defeat the Dark One (From Blood and Ash reference - or should i say, a "from any Fantasy book that has ever existed" reference).

B) *GASP* You're an orphan! Sorry, we authors have nothing better to write, and having the protagonist be an orphan is just so much easier, because after all, we're probably shitty parents ourselves and don't know how to write a YA book about characters that actually have decent parents.

C) *GASP* You fall in love with a drop-dead gorgeous, hunk-a-hunk-a and, wait, NO, you didn't mean to, but shit it's too late now because it's. Already. Too. Late.

*deep, weary sigh from the soul*

I am so tired of this repetitive shit. Will I ever read some new content? Will I ever read something that is actually worth my time? Apparently, The Girl of Fire and Thorns begs to differ.

Why is Young Adult becoming the same thing, over and over and over?

Despite the rather intriguing title (which is also another cliche with the format Girl of [insert cool word] and [insert another cool word], that’s all there is to it. The plot is nonexistent, (or maybe it was existent, I'm not fucking sure because I DNFed this piece of shit) or took too damn long and did not get to the point at all.

A second ago, I just asked myself if there was anything I liked about this book, just to be a little more positive in this review. But all I could think about was dough, and the fact that Elisa is covered in dough as the beginning scene of the book. And I just don't understand why this was even necessary. The opening scene of the book was utter trash.

Basically the protagonist is “ugly." So clearly the author thought that making her "ugly" would mean she is automatically “uNiQuE,” and inimitable from other girl characters, because she’s not like every other book that makes the protagonist a beauty. Not gonna lie, I liked the idea at first. I liked it, until the narrator kept saying

"i am ugly"
"i am literally so ugly, why does this dude like me"
"why does he smile at me this way, i am ugly"

And I just ... no. No. We do not stan such self-deprecation here nor there. Get a fucking mirror, bring it to your face, and convince yourself that you are beautiful. I'm so tired of this, "I am unworthy of such a beautiful, beautiful man," crap. Grow. Some fucking. Confidence.

Plot-wise, I obviously hated it, since we're here, and I'm writing this.The girl protagonist is being sold off to some random king. Oh my. wHeRe HaVe We HeArD tHaT bEfOrE? Elisa hopes the king will be “fat and ugly,” so that it will be easier to hate him. Yes, of course. That makes a lot of sense. Because we all want our husbands to be fat and ugly.

Elisa gets ready for her wedding, where she will meet the king, who she somehow doesn’t even KNOW WHAT THE FUCK he looks like. This little detail got me so extremely mad, and I just wanted to rage for days on end and never read another word again.

Do you not know.
What your KING looks like.
That’s like not knowing what the president looks like.

Sweetheart. Fuck off the premises. Immediately.

Here is my favorite line out of this entire book: King Alejandro de Vega is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.

I love how Elisa wants an ugly man and gets a beautiful one. Really. Because that's like, not cliche at all. I can't even talk about this book anymore.

(Um also what is that cover why is no one talking about that cover that cover is weird it gives me construction worker vibes)
October 17, 2016
3.5 stars


Well I don't think I've ever read a book where both the heroines love interests die.. who will she spend forever with now?

The storyline of this book is basically about a princess trying to find out what her role is as a bearer and trying to find a way to save her country from inland enemies who want access to the port for whatever reasons and will stop at nothing to get it. It was never answered why the enemy wanted a complete collection of godstones or why they so desperately wanted rights to the docks they only said it was gods will for what they were doing.

There was plenty of thrill in the writing and narrative and I loved the descriptions of the desert and Elisa's struggles to adapt to an un pampered life. Yet despite all the hardships thrown at her from the start of her kidnap she was unspoiled and only complained about serious vital things e.g. Lack of food and water. She was never vain and never complained about trivial things like her hair or lack of service etc. I did get on with her yet have got to admit felt a little detached from her and the characters through lack of emotions shown. This was only a small glitch though.

There was world building but it was a little scarce in my opinion. It described how god rescued humankind by bringing them into that world in his right hand. It also described how Elisa 's people left the country of Joya to colonise the valleys because they thought joya had strayed from the path of god and they intended to peruse god by studying the sacred texts. There was the description of how a bearer is chosen every century at their naming ceremony when the blue godstone appears with light in their navel. All bearers are chosen by god to perform an act of heroism for him and although it appeared that many bearers didn't complete their service it was thought at the end that all the bearers contributed in little ways to one large deed and Elisa has yet to play her part.

I was quite surprised with the ending though I mean how could the author kill off two important characters....

I did enjoy the action and unpredictability of this book and look forward to the rest of the series. I would recommend this book to those who are looking for a high fantasy that keeps one guessing and has a different cultural feel.
Profile Image for Shannon A.
674 reviews532 followers
July 5, 2016
I really enjoyed this one! It didn't pull me in right away but I quite enjoyed the second half of the book! Moving along to COE right away!
Profile Image for summer.
248 reviews298 followers
January 22, 2015
I have put off this review long enough. It should be telling enough that to this day I preserve a place in my heart that severely abhors this book; it has left that much of an impact on my anger me.

The reason I read this? I wanted to read a high fantasy book that would be reminiscent of Stolen Songbird, a recent favorite of mine, and wanted to relive the experience but in a different book. Actually--screw it--imma go right out and say that the sole reason I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns was because I had bought the second book last year for like $1.99 and I wanted to get this series out of the way.

I didn't expect to love this. But neither did I expect to hate it to this extent.

The first chapter was decent enough. The storyline in itself is not a bad one, but after Elisa leaves the palace, shit goes awry. I hadn't minded the story until then, but once there’s a lot less courtly-stuff and a lot more magical WTFery, I definitely began to mind.

I’ll start with the aforementioned magical WTFery. You know in good fantasy books, like Harry Potter, where the magic does not make a bit of rational sense, I AM LYING HEHEHE MUGGLES but you still understand, because it’s fiction, right? You still understand the fundamentals of the magic, you understand that there are these spells, and they work like this, and whatever? Yeah--no, this book doesn't have that. It’s just some random ass magic from a magic ass stone stuck in Elisa’s belly button that just At these points, I could literally see the author’s hand making adjustments like a chessboard to further the plot (okay, not literally).

Not only did the magic make absolutely no sense--or as much sense as magic could make--the fantasy was terrible. It was as generic as those nasty rip-off Oreos at the grocery store. I should start a new genre called Fake Fantasy, and this would be the first book labeled as thus. You know what? The Girl of Fire and Thorns is to the fantasy genre as Defiance is to dystopia, and if you've read that book (and disliked it) you’d know what I mean.

Then there’s Elisa, my favorite character in all of YA fantasy (heh). Oh, God, she was intolerable. She was not that bad at the beginning of the book, and I feel like some teens would be able to relate to her and even like her on some level. But once I passed that line between palace and desert, she became unbearably annoying and whiny and… skinny! Yes, the girl that I was excited to read about, probably one of the only “fat” girls in YA fantasy, magically turned skinny after a month’s treck in the desert. And somehow all her problems just magically evaporated. Man, I wish I could spend a month in the desert and come back home to all my problems being solved. Wait, life doesn't work like that.

Learn from this, girls: the only way you can get what you want is by losing weight. Lose those love handles, throw away that bag of chips, or else you sure as hell won’t be achieving anything in your life. *sigh*

(Sidenote: I’m genuinely curious what the author was trying to do with this? How could someone not be offended by this? Not that I think that fiction should be censored, but truly, there had to have been a reason behind this blatant issue that I’m missing.)

The rest of the characters? Nothing too significant about any of them. I mean, screw characterization, right? In all seriousness, though, the characters were very minimally developed. I began to categorize characters based on whether or not they liked Elisa, because that’s as deep a description as they got. If you like character-based novels, or even if you expect more characterization than the superficial, then you’re in for a big disappointment.

The romance was, in one very long word (?): blehhhhhhhh. That’s all I’m going to say as I’ll probably spoil approximately the entire book if I let myself go on this diatribe.

The plot: just kept going on. And on. And on. To nowhere. Absolutely nothing happened along the way. This was one long-ass book, and for a book this long, I’d expect more than never-ending walks. Heck, I’m pretty sure the plot was lost along the way of one of Elisa’s never-ending treads. Where’d ya go, plot?

While I’m at it, I’ll tick off the other boxes: Worldbuilding? Nonexistent. Writing? Mediocre. Pacing? LOL.

The only people I’d recommend this to are for those with very, very low standards for young adult fantasy, and even then, I’d warn them of the oncoming disaster.

Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
943 reviews14k followers
September 30, 2023
DNF at 120 pages

i genuinely think i read a different book than everyone else who's giving this five stars?? because it was shocking how much i disliked this. as i was debating the pros and cons, the only positive i could think of for this book was that the font size was so big that it went by fast.

i picked this up primarily on the basis that the main character is fat, and fat women in fantasy is SO rare. but every page is full of internalized fatphobia and disgusting descriptions of her body and how gross she perceives herself. on top of that, this main character frequently binge eats to the point of even vomiting, and she felt like more of a caricature and hyperbole of a fat girl than anything else. i was so disappointed and this book made me feel icky about myself in turn.

the magic system in this book is not my cup of tea--the main character was born with a gemstone in her belly button (????) called a godstone. so it revolves around religion and praying to god to help her..... ok.

but most problematically, there's a group of people who are after her for her "powers" that are written as seemingly native, complete with painted skin and rudimentary weapons. in just the one scene where she's attacked by them , she outright calls them savages no fewer than six times, which was so uncomfortable and disappointing to see that racist trope alive and well with no one else talking about it.

i almost stuck it out just to see how this book improves once some real action is added, but this main character had zero personality and clunky dialogue. it was also annoying slogging through so many descriptions of her loathing of her body and eating habits (not to mention the author admitting in interviews she was a size 6 when inspiration hit her for this book).

bottom line, if i wanted to read a book inspired by spanish morocco or narrated by a fat woman, i'll just find one from an own voices author.
Profile Image for Katerina  Kondrenko.
498 reviews841 followers
December 31, 2020
7 out of 10

Ревью в моем блоге/This review on my blog Living A Thousand Lives (please use Chrome/Yandex browser or Android/IOS to see the page; otherwise, spoiler-tags I use to make my post compact may not work)

Fyre – Away From Home
Katie Melua – The Flood
Les Friction – Firewall

Genre: high-fantasy, YA
Stuff: ugly duckling, Spanish tune, court intrigues, dessert
Fail: too much religion and fat-talks
WOW: MC's transformation
POV: 1st-person, female
Love-Geometry: seeming, almost zero

“I loved and lost and survived.”

I wasn't planning to read this soon and then my dear friend Nastassja decided to know whether the hype about The Girl of Fire and Thorns (I almost wrote of 'Thorns and Roses', ahaha) is just. After that, she said, 'You go and read, you GO and READ, but beware, the real fun will start in the second book only'. Here I am, Nastya. Here I am.

What does your typical YA-heroine look like? I think she’s pretty and gorgeous, though has no idea about it. Meet Elisa, she’s clumsy, average, fat and she’s very aware of it.

Our MC is only 16 and she becomes a wife of a mature widower (~30-year-old, I guess) with a young child, a kingdom (yup, he's king) to protect (a war is looming on the horizon), and a beautiful mistress with questionable intentions and awful personality. She falls for her husband but understands that he wouldn't love her back, not the way she wants him to. What hurts, even more, is that, after returning to Alejandro's homeland, the king prefers to keep their marriage in secret. As well as Elisa's specialty: she has a jewel in her navel (disgusting), this stone answers to her devotions and is able to worry her about dangers. This thing is a sign of God's choice, of Elisa's sacred status and her potential heroism. But again, she's a young fat girl (I repeat it only because this fact was repeating on every freaking page of the book, I swear), who would rather eat another pastry instead of saving the world. That's how our story begins.

To be honest, I didn't like Elisa at the start, I was getting the point of every character in this story, even of a stupid mistress of Alejandro, but not MCs. She was eating, eating, eating, and complaining about her sausage-like appearance. What encouraged me to go on? I knew she would change, I knew she'd become a badass queen, so I was eager to see HOW. And I was eager for her to charm Alejandro (this desire was fading away though, 'since the king was an uncertain person with great responsibilities and inability to fulfill his duties (it's not about sex, ahahah, just saying) to the country (told ya)). I mean, Alejandro wasn't the person I can respect, he had his strengths and pluses, and I was under his spell, but something in him was off, that's why I wasn't obsessed with Elisa and him being together no matter what.

Wanna know what happened next? What pushed MC? It was a kidnapping. Elisa had traveled through dessert enduring hunger and thirst, was leading a group of rebels and that's only the top of this iceberg. She met a true love in the journey, true friends, true self, and became stronger. That's how I start to see Elisa in different lights.

Little notes:
- The pacing was very fast, I spent a night without sleep for the sake of this story and I regret nothing.
- I did love Spanish details, Carsons's world reminds me about the Spanish south, where Moresco's influence was the strongest of all the country. I was reading this book in Russian, but I guess that the classic language was Castellano. Since I love Spain and its language muuuch, I was really pleased with such details.
- Religion stuff was irritating, but not overwhelming.
- Romantic line had a seeming love-triangle, though there was none, to be honest. And all the romance stuff was very unusual for YA.
- MC wasn't the most desired girl in the world, nor the smartest one.

The final includes a few unexpected twists. If I didn't know better, I may end up being really confused. I heard that the second book is ten million times better (Nastassja, hello!), so I'm pretty curious about the sequel.

Fire and Thorns (Шипы и огонь):
The Shadow Cats (Призрачные кошки) #0.5/3
The Shattered Mountain (Треснувшая гора) #0.6/3
The King's Guard (Королевский гвардеец) #0.7/3
The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Книга шипов и огня) #1/3
The Crown of Embers (Корона из пепла) #2/3
— The Bitter Kingdom (Жестокое царство) #3/3
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