THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS REVIEW
Initially, I read Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns while I was in graduate school, studying children’s literature, so my approach to this book was purely academic. But as I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I enjoyed it immensely because it reminded me of other fantasy novels that I read as a teen. There were details, especially about the political structure of the world in the book, that I didn’t pick up, and was impressed by in my rereading of the novel. This is the first novel in a trilogy, along with a series of novellas about characters in the series.
Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza is a girl whose fate is greater than she can imagine. A chosen member of her kingdom, Elisa carries the Godstone, a beacon of destiny literally embedded into her skin.
Only one person a century is given the Godstone, and is deemed the bearer to complete an act given to them by God.
Most bearers of the Godstone die young, some never finish their tasks, and others are left unacknowledged by their country.
Elisa is smart, and loves to learn, but her father thinks she would better serve their kingdom otherwise. On her sixteenth birthday, Elisa is set to marry the king of a neighboring realm, Alejandro de Vega, whom she has never met. Elisa’s older sister Alodia is more poised and polished, and Elisa thinks she’d be a better queen. But Elisa has little say in her future, and once married to Alejandro, she leaves her home behind to journey to his palace.
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On their way, their caravan is beset by bandits, and both Alejandro and Aneaxi, Elisa’s handmaid, are injured. In a surprising act of bravery, Elisa saves Alejandro from being murdered, but Aneaxi ultimately dies from her wounds. Her death sparks a revelation in Elisa, about her role as a queen, and perhaps what secrets are being kept from her. Ximena, Elisa’s nurse, reveals some truth to Elisa, but it is not enough.
When they reach Alejandro’s court, Elisa feels even more confounded about her role and her future with Alejandro.
Elisa finds some comfort in the friendship with Lord Hector, the king’s bodyguard, who takes a liking to Elisa and shows her around the city. But Elisa’s identity and her role as the keeper of the Godstone is kept a secret; Alejandro decides not to tell his kingdom that Elisa is his wife and their queen, and instead the word is spread that she is his special guest. Perturbed by this, Elisa knows that she the man she married is even more of a mystery than she previously thought. As Elisa tries to navigate her way through her new life and court society, she inadvertently makes enemies of others; people who don’t want her near Alejandro, and those who wish her ill will.
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Seeking refuge in knowledge, Father Nicandro, a local priest, helps Elisa in her learning, until she discovers that she really has been kept in the dark about her future — she has not been allowed to see a book of prophecies that could have the answer to what her fate concerning the Godstone will be. Complicating matters, Elisa has reason to doubt that her maid, Cosmé, is trustworthy, and her suspicions are confirmed when Elisa is kidnapped from the palace.
The kidnappers are revealed as Cosmé and her brother Humberto, who believe that Elisa will help them with the power of her Godstone. But with political intrigue saturating the landscape and an inevitable war looming on the horizon, Elisa will have to determine whom she can trust, and how much control she has in her destiny.
The narration of the novel draws the reader in. Elisa is a character whose emotional journey parallels the physical one that she takes over the course of the story. With the political complications she faces as the bearer of the Godstone and as the secret queen of a nation she barely knows, she tends to worry — as anyone would! By the close of the novel, she finds merit in herself, which she does not have at the start of the story, and she understands what her true strengths are.
The story is assisted by great secondary characters, who help drive the story along. These characters are well-rounded enough so that they don’t blur together, which sometimes can happen in epic fantasy novels. This first novel will leave the reader wanting to find out what adventures Elisa goes on next but works as a standalone novel.
Content warning: Some violence.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns would be a blast to see on the silver screen! With the journey that Elisa makes with Cosmé and Humberto, there would be plenty of great landscape shots. I thought of Tarsem Singh’s The Fall as I was reading. With a big action sequence at the climax of the book (not to give too much away!), a film would really showcase the narrative of the book. Since this is a trilogy of books, I would love to see all three adapted into films.
For casting, I’d put Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth, MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles) as Elisa. She can play roles in a fantasy world well, and I think she could capture both Elisa’s strength and vulnerability. For Humberto, I’d cast Carlos Valdes (CW’s The Flash) whose cheekiness and adorable quality as his character Cisco could also work well for Humberto’s character.
What do you think of The Girl of Fire and Thorns? Who would you cast in the leading roles? Sound off below…
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