Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: September 20, 2011
Read it in: 3 days
So yes, I definitely fell in love with this book! I thought that The Girl of Fire and Thorns included pretty much everything that I look for in a YA fantasy novel-- action, adventure, romance, awesome characters and imaginative world-building.
Elisa is a 16-year old princess from the kingdom of Oravalle, and she has no idea what her purpose is in life. Granted, she has been chosen by God to be the carrier of the Godstone, which only happens to one person every hundred years, but she doesn't consider herself to be very special. The gem is actually in her navel, and it signifies that she is destined for greatness, and must complete some heroic act at some point in her life-- even though she doesn't yet know what it will be. Only once she marries the king of another territory, who happens to be a total stranger, and sets off on a journey to fulfill a prophesy does Elisa finally come into her own and develop into a strong, confident character.
Elisa was an awesome heroine, for two main reasons: first, she was completely unlike any other YA heroine I have ever read about and second, because she makes such drastic changes throughout the story. I think one thing that made Elisa so unique was that she was very real-- she was overweight, clumsy, lazy, not particularly brave or intelligent, and in fact throughout the first 200 pages or so I didn't much like her at all. I thought she was pretty darned annoying actually. But by the end, she had become so much stronger and her character had grown so much, that I definitely respected her. In the end, it seemed so much more realistic to have her start out as a somewhat annoying and immature character, and then have her learn and grow based on her journey and experiences. This made her interesting-- and I will take interesting over pretty and perfect any day...
Another thing I loved about this book, and what I thought made it really stand out, was all the sensory detail that was included in the story-- the scents, the tastes, the sounds-- these are things that I sometimes find to be lacking in YA books, but in this case it gave the story so much more richness and depth. The scenery, the clothing, the scents, and especially all the yummy descriptions of food! I definitely appreciated all of these details that made the story come alive and seem real. Added to this was a detailed religion and social structure that was central to how Elisa and her society lived, which created a complete culture throughout the book. I have to say, it was awesome and I was super impressed!
For me, this book was much more appealing and enjoyable than Graceling by Kristin Cashore, which I had to bring up because it's really the only other YA fantasy book I have read since I started my blog. I was not a huge fan of Graceling, but I do think that if you enjoyed that book you will really love this one as well. I thought that the world building in this book was much more complete, and the main character was easier to like and relate to than Katsa-- Elisa became powerful and independent without coming across as standoffish or cold. For any fantasy fan out there, or for anyone who is looking for a book filled with adventure and action I would definitely recommend The Girl of Fire and Thorns-- It is a breath-taking, beautiful story that will definitely keep you reading!
I really love the cover for this book, and I am so glad that they changed it drastically from the original ARC cover-- not that the original wasn't beautiful (because it was! See right image), but the Elisa on it looked absolutely nothing like the Elisa as described in the book, so I am happy to see the changes that were made to stay true to the actual story. I love how you can see Elisa's face in the facet of the gem-- and yes, the stone does have a key part in the book! Altogether, a very beautiful cover for an awesome story!